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Gilbert Monture – "the picture of manhood"

Gilbert Monture – "the picture of manhood"

"Tall, dark, and handsome" and bright beyond measure, Gilbert "Slim" Monture, BSc'21, was one of the University's earliest aboriginal grads. He was also one of its most accomplished and acclaimed.

Dr. Gilbert “Slim” Monture, BSc’21, was an engineer, a soldier, a commissioned officer in the Canadian military, a civil servant, and a diplomat. He was also the first known Indigenous engineer to graduate from Queen’s and the great-grandson of the famed Mohawk Chief, Captain Joseph Brant.

One of eight siblings raised in a two-room cabin, Monture was born in 1896 on the Six Nations Reservation. At the age of 12, he enrolled in high school in Hagersville, ON, and walked the five miles each way, daily. When he matriculated from high school at age 16, he taught school on the Six Nations Reserve in order to save the money to attend Queen’s.

[photo of Gilbert Monture]
Gilbert Monture, 1921
Photo: Queen's University Archives V28-CL-APP-1921-2 

In 1914, the young Monture arrived on campus to study mining and metallurgical engineering. In 1917, he postponed his studies to enlist in the Canadian Forces and trained as a gunner in the Royal Canadian Field Artillery. In 1918, he was sent to Britain. He came home a year later and resumed his studies at Queen’s. Meanwhile, he met and married Elva Leona Penwarden, a Kingston girl.

When Monture went to work as an editor for the Mines Branch of the Canadian Government, it wasn’t long before his intelligence and popularity helped him rise through the ranks. In 1933, he joined the militia and served for five years as a lieutenant but was prevented from joining the active forces in WWII because of an earlier mining injury. In 1944, he went to Washington, DC, where he was responsible for guiding the allocation of Canada’s strategic minerals.

In the postwar years, Monture worked in diplomatic positions for Canada, the Commonwealth, NATO, and the United Nations. He eventually retired from Government for a senior position in private industry

Known for his generosity, his modest and self-effacing manner, Slim Monture was tall, dark, and handsome; he often was desctribed as being the “picture of manhood.” He was once the subject of a portrait by the famed photographer Yousef Karsh.

Monture was an avid reader of prose and poetry and liked to quote the Bible, as well as Greek mythology and the odd Latin phrase.

During the course of his life, Monture was awarded the Order of the British Empire (1946), the Vanier Medal for public service in Canada and abroad (1966), and was named to the Order of Canada (1967). He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by the University of Western Ontario and also made an honorary chief of the Six Nations who named him Ohstoserakówa – or Big Feather because of his tall, slim 6’2” frame. He was a member of the Queen’s University Council, the Board of Directors of the Queen’s Alumni Association, and also a member of the Board of Governors of Trent University.

Monture was revered for the qualities of his mind and heart. But perhaps the most telling thing of all about Monture was that despite his many achievements, his global travels, and many honours – he was devoted to his family and considered a highlight of his life to be his daughter Barbara Monture Malloch, Arts’47. Monture was also stepfather to Archibald Malloch, BA'48, and grandfather to Tom Malloch, Law’83.