George Fred McNally (1946–1952)
A descendant of United Empire Loyalists, George Fred McNally was born in June, 1878 near St Anne's Point near what is now Fredericton, New Brunswick.
English master at the Strathcona Collegiate Institute until 1909, McNally was appointed school inspector with headquarters in Wetaskiwin. He went on to become Alberta's Deputy Minister of Education from 1935 to 1946 and president of Canadian Education Association from 1938 to 1941.
Under the title “A Streamlined Plan of Teacher Education,” McNally, as Deputy Minister of Education, heralded “a modern programme for the preparation of teachers.” This program not only meant university-level education and ultimately a university degree for all prospective teachers, but it was also, boasted McNally, "one of the most significant developments in educational policy adopted anywhere in Canada. The ultimate effect of this policy will raise the status of every teacher in Alberta schools. In five years, the profession of teaching in this province will attain a status never dreamed possible under the plan formerly in use.”
Dr George Fred McNally had a long association with the University of Alberta. As a member of the first Convocation in 1911, he received the degree of MA. Thirty-five years later, in 1946, he became the fifth Chancellor of the University of Alberta. His term of office coincided with the period of the largest enrollment in the University's history, and almost the entire group of student veterans who graduated from the University following World War II received their degrees from his hands. It is estimated that during the six years from 1946 to 1952, Dr McNally conferred almost as many degree as did all his predecessors in the University's history.
While he conferred degrees upon graduands, so too did McNally receive two high honours: the University conferred upon him an Honorary Doctor of Laws, and, in 1958, on the occasion of the University's Golden Jubilee, he was presented with the Alumni Association's highest tribute. The University of Alberta Alumni Golden Jubilee Award, consisting of a gold-plated tray and framed tribute, recognized citizens for their distinguished contribution to the University.
McNally was, said Dr G.V. Haythorne, Deputy Minister of Labour in Ottawa, a man
whose name, whose spirit, whose inspiration have been connected for so long with education in Canada and particularly in this part of Canada. Dr McNally … is one of the greatest Canadian educators of the twentieth century… [He] brings a freshness, a vigor, and an enthusiasm to discussions of education. [and] has also done more than any single other man in Canada today to elevated the status of technical education.
McNally was not only a teacher, school inspector, normal school principal, curriculum developer, deputy education minister, and university chancellor, but also chairman of the National Technical and Vocational Training Advisory Council. Said G.V. Haythorne in a citation for the opening of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in 1963:
Dr McNally has done more than any single other man in Canada today to elevate the status of technical education, which … is so essential in today's complex and increasingly technological world.
Fittingly, when NAIT was officially opened, its library, located off the South Lobby of the Main Campus, was dedicated to, and named for, McNally.
Dr McNally, had four children: son John and daughters Jean, Helen, and Betty.
Said Rev G.M. Edwards, who conducted McNally's funeral:
[McNally] wore the hallmark of greaness with simplicity, he never lost the common touch. He could how potatoes in his front yard in preparation for next year's lawn, as I found him doing one day, and then step over to the University to confer degrees, and be perfectly at ease in both settings.
McNally, whose life has been associated with service to others, passed away December 4, 1965 at the age of 87. McNally High School in south Edmonton is named in his honour.