Queen's University

Lament for Homecoming

Paul Maycock, Arts’54, from Waterdown ON, laments the suspension of the Homecoming tradition, and he wonders how this all came about.

Do you remember what it was like to be an alumnus of Queen's University? I do.

Merely because they have “graduated” from a university, many people consider themselves to be an alumnus. There is much more to being a Queen's alumnus than simply earning a degree from the University. That was made clear each fall when thousands of alumni returned to Kingston for the annual Homecoming celebrations.

Maycock photoPaul Maycock

You arrived in Kingston and drove down friendly old Princess Street, past all of those restaurants, stores, theatres, and drinking spots that were so familiar during your student days. After renting a room at the Holiday Inn (which cost 10 times what one at the old LaSalle Hotel cost when you rented a room as a part venue on the weekend of the annual faculty formal) you took a long walk along the Lake Ontario strand.It was always a sight to see the Wolfe Island ferry traveling back and forth between Kingston and the island.

Your Homecoming Weekend walk would inevitably lead you to that big park in front of the Frontenac County Court House. You could sit on a bench there all afternoon watching the world go by, just as you did in your student days when you should have been at the books. (By the way, what is the name of that park? Imagine not knowing it after all of the time you spent in Kingston and the many times you walked through it!)

After you crossed the park you entered Queen's campus, either by Stuart or Union Streets. If you came by way of the former, you walked across the lower campus, where you can see the wonderful vista that includes the Old Arts Building and Summerhill, both of which are architectural wonders.

I prefer the old campus to the new. Few of the buildings to the west of University Avenue were there when I was a student.

Then you can wander around through sights and sounds which were oh, so familiar. I prefer the old campus to the new. Few of the buildings to the west of University Avenue were there when I was a student. The Etheringtons lived in their stately home across from Grant Hall. Nowadays it is part of the Agnes Etrherington Art Gallery, where visitors can view not one, but two wonderful Rembrant paintings. Just south of the Art Centre is Ban Righ Hall. The Dean of Women made sure the girls who lived in the Ban Righ residence behaved themselves.

The new administrative building, Richardson Hall, was erected just north of the Art Centre in 1954, just as I was graduating. I lived in a grand old red-brick house, Austin House, that used to sit at the southeast corner of Union and University. Sadly, it was torn down to had to make way for progress in the form of Dunning Hall. One is really fortunate to recall Austin House and the memorable, eccentric landlady who made certain that her five “boys” behaved themselves as did their visitors who were among attendees at football soirees that bookended Saturday football games at nearby Richardson Stadium.

Let's not forget the football games! Watching Golden Gaels games is also a part of what makes someone a Queen’s alumnus. Who would return to campus in the football season without attending a football game? For some inexplicable reason, a host of alumni events – the Grant Hall Society Dinner for one -- are scheduled on weekends when there is no home game. Perhaps alumni, particularly senior alumni, just don't behave themselves at these great activities --- win or lose

Any stroll around the campus always summons to mind memories of those buildings and professors with which you were most familiar. In my case, those were the New Arts building and Prof. Roy and Miss Gordon for English, Profs, Earl, Krotkov, West, and Curran, for Biology; Gordon Hall- Profs.Doc McCrae, Smith, Dorrance, Monroe for chemistry, and the old Douglas Library with its stately study room on the top floor and those stacks.

I also have fond memories of greeting Principal Wallace on the main walk at 7:55 a.m. as I rushed to an eight o’clock calculus class or the Students’ Memorial Union cafeteria for a 25-cent quick breakfast of toast and coffee. One could go on and on, every single memory I have is a pleasant one.

Then there was the legendary registrar, Miss Jean Royce . . . oh, what fear she instilled in the hearts of students when you were called to her office. Yet you always came away quite reassured by her assistance and kindness.

But wait a minute before we continue on with these remarkably pleasant alumni memories. . .

They were nurtured and sustained by the annual celebration we called HOMECOMING. (I hope it is not now considered a nasty word!) We used to await it each year with a kind of reverence and patience. Now it is no more. What have “us darned alumni” done to deserve the cancellation of this event? The older we get, the more troublesome we become? Whatever we've done, no one has really explained. Who made this decision? The former principal, the Deans in concert, some alumni group, the Kingston Police who seem incapable of handling difficult confrontations with teenagers? Who?

Is it never to end? Suspending Homecoming is akin to exiling all Queen's alumni from their Native Land? It is time to reconsider.

Editor's note: After conferring with various stakeholders, including alumni, senior administrators, student leaders, officials from the City of Kingston and the local police department, Principal Daniel Woolf announced in November that the annual Homecoming celebrations would be suspended for three more years, until 2014. He cited ongoing safety concerns as the reason.

To read the Principal's statement, please visit http://www.queensu.ca/principal/news/homecoming.html.


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Last updated at 11:16 am EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
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