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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Professor MacEwan

MacEwan standing centre in dark sweater among the football players.

Soon after graduating from Iowa State College of Agriculture Grant MacEwan was offered a number of employment opportunities. After weeks of deliberation MacEwan accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Animal Husbandry at the University of Saskatchewan. The head of animal husbandry was Professor A.M. Shaw who offered MacEwan a starting salary of$2,500 for the first year followed by $100 increases each year to the rank of junior professor. As a professor with a Masters Degree the department expected MacEwan to work towards a PhD while he taught at the university. Much of his work as a young professor involved lecturing (upwards of 17 hours a week), livestock judging, and hours of lecture preparation. From the very beginning, Professor MacEwan developed a close relationship with the President of the university, Dr. Walter Murray.

His first summer on the campus actually involved extensive travel throughout Saskatchewan judging livestock exhibitions. During the summer of 1928 MacEwan experienced took his first flight in an aircraft flying over the farm fields of southern Saskatchewan. Classes began in the fall and they kept MacEwan extremely busy. Not wanting to disappoint his students or colleague, MacEwan would spend hours every day preparing detailed lecture notes. Students soon became enthralled by Professor MacEwan's demeanor, describing him as a story teller and a conversationalist. MacEwan did not want to lecture to his students; rather he preferred discussions and feedback from his students. By allowing students to express their own ideas MacEwan believed they would develop a sense of appreciation for agriculture. Outside of the classroom, MacEwan frequently participated in extra-curricular activities. He coached and played in the competitive interfaculty basketball league.

By the end of his first year MacEwan was involved in ten important investigative projects. For his fine work, he was awarded an increase in his salary to $3,200 and promoted to the rank of junior professor. In the coming years Professor MacEwan participated in some of the largest breeding experiments in North America.

When Dean Shaw was invited to sit on the Canadian Wheat Board his chair at the College of Agriculture became vacant. Dr. Murray invited MacEwan to share some of Shaw's former responsibilities with the university president. MacEwan's new role translated into increased administrative duties like masses of paperwork, daily meetings, and monthly conferences. Burdened with increased responsibilities MacEwan regrettably had to decline opportunities to judge livestock, one of his favorite activities.

Professor MacEwan was soon appointed the manager of the university farm, a responsibility that would become increasingly arduous during the difficult 1930s. Meanwhile, he published The Science and Practice of Canadian Animal Husbandry in 1936, a book seen by many as a valuable contribution to the subject. The Great Depression, highlighted by miserable weather and falling market prices, presented Professor MacEwan with a number of challenges. Outside of the classroom and laboratory he kept busy by writing other books like Breeds of Farm Livestock in 1941, his first book that he wrote and prepared by himself.


Von Hauff, Donna. Everyone's Grandfather: The Life & Times of Grant MacEwan. Edmonton: Grant MacEwan Community College Foundation, 1994.

Macdonald, R. H. Grant MacEwan: No ordinary Man. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1979.

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