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University of Manitoba

In August of 1946 Grant MacEwan traveled to Winnipeg, Manitoba to attend a Kiwanis Club district convention. As the President of the Saskatoon Club it was important that he attended. During the course of his stay he received a phone call from the President of the University of Manitoba, Dr. A. W. Trueman. The position of Dean of Agriculture was vacant and the University of Manitoba was keenly interested in hiring someone externally. During a previous visit to the campus, Dr. MacEwan found the school to be in a "disappointing state of disrepair". Grant immediately phoned his wife Phyllis to seek her advice. She responded by telling Grant that the offer was too good to turn down. Three days later they were looking at houses in Winnipeg and they soon found one on Somerset Avenue.

It was difficult saying goodbye to friends and colleague in Saskatoon as a number of farewell receptions were held in their honour. Dr. Thompson, the President of the University of Saskatchewan, described Dr. MacEwan as nearly irreplaceable; his extensive research and prolific writing skills demonstrated a diversity of talent and accomplishment.

Grant MacEwan's appointment as the new Dean of Agriculture at the University of Manitoba was the first step in strengthening the Faculty of Agriculture. His objectives were to bring closer coordination between the University farm and the various teaching departments. In addition, MacEwan wanted to foster a closer relationship with Manitoba's farmers. MacEwan then held meetings with the faculty to grasp some of their concerns and issues with the department. By doing so MacEwan could appease most staff members and reduce internal bickering. Almost immediately, he forged a close relationship with the Director of Home Economics who possessed a wealth of experience and thus could provide Dr. MacEwan with advice as needed.

MacEwan's efforts to bridge the gap between rural Manitoba and the University did not pass without criticism. A well-recognized journalist at the Country Guide openly questioned Dr. MacEwan's tactics about the need to bridge the gap between the University and rural Manitoba. The journalist was not sold on MacEwan's methods of "taking the University out into the province." It would have been a surprise to MacEwan that such a prestigious and challenging position would transpire without any objectors. Nonetheless, he continued in his objectives. In his first year alone, he made over 125 public appearances outside of the University campus. However, in spite of his efforts, Dr. MacEwan would soon realize another significant gap: the lack of communication between the Faculty of Agriculture and the Provincial Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile a number of valuable research projects were carried on Dr. MacEwan's supervision. MacEwan's administrative responsibilities seemed to increase on a weekly basis particularly after school president Dr. Trueman accepted a position at the University of New Brunswick.  In spite of his tight schedule Dr. MacEwan frequently found time to visit relatives in nearby Brandon.

Resources

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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