When James Downey became the 14th president and vice-chancellor of the University of New Brunswick in 1980, he knew very little about Lord Beaverbrook and his many gifts to the university and the province of New Brunswick.
But he soon became as fascinated with the “Beaver” as most New Brunswickers.
I often found myself telling stories of Beaverbrook’s relations with New Brunswick, stories not told in the biographies and essays about him by mostly British writers, whose focus, understandably, has been on Beaverbrook’s role in United Kingdom politics and business,” Dr. Downey said. “One of those stories grew in complexity and intrigue as I pursued it. It is the story of how John and Robert Kennedy came to visit the University of New Brunswick, and why they took care to prepare and deliver superior convocation addresses.”
The story Dr. Downey pursued has now been captured in a book entitled, Lord Beaverbrook and the Kennedys, which will be officially launched on Tuesday, May 15, at 4 p.m., in Memorial Hall on the Fredericton campus of UNB. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.
Thoughtful and well-researched, the book, published by UNB, explores the complex relationship between Lord Beaverbrook and his contemporary Joseph Kennedy which unfolded between the two World Wars. This and Lord Beaverbrook’s chancellorship of UNB from 1947 to his death in 1964 were influential in bringing ‘Jack’ and ‘Bobby’ to Fredericton at critical points in their careers to be awarded honorary degrees by the university.
The Convocation address each of them made is reproduced in full, with commentary by Dr. Downey, an English scholar by education, on the significance of their messages and the quality of their “rhetorical eloquence.”
Dr. Downey is a graduate of Memorial University and the University of London. He taught English literature at Carleton University in Ottawa and served as president of Carleton University, the University of New Brunswick (1980 to 1990), and the University of Waterloo, where he is now president emeritus. In recognition of his contributions, he was awarded an honorary degree from UNB in 1991 and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996.
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