|Kenneth Wiffin Taylor, 1959 (Photograph Collection, A-2787)|
Convocation date: September 29, 1959
Special Convocation: Golden Jubilee Convocation
Discipline / contribution: public service ; economics
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor:Degree received: Doctor of Laws
I present to you Kenneth Wiffin Taylor, Doctor of Laws, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Commander, Order of the British Empire, who has distinguished himself as a scholar, a teacher and a public servant.
Dr. Taylor was born in China and received all his public and high school education in the Inland Mission Schools at Chefoo, China. This early and, I think we may assume, somewhat austere, moral training and background fitted him well for the spare, intellectual discipline of his undergraduate years at McMaster University. But these were interrupted by the First World War and he served with the Canadian Field Artillery from 1917 to 1919 before returning to obtain his degree from McMaster in 1921. He then followed a generation of other eminent Canadians to that Mecca of Canadian social scientists, the University of Chicago, for graduate work going on to further economic research as a Fellow of the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. In 1925 he returned to McMaster to serve that institution for 14 years as Professor of Political Economy, albeit over that period he frequently descended into the dust and the heat of the market place to act as a member of the Canadian Governments delegation to the Imperial Economic Conference of 1932, to serve as Economic Adviser on two Royal Commissions and to attend at least three International Conferences. Yet the claims of scholarship were not neglected and the professorial years saw the appearance from his pen of numerous articles and two solid studies of foreign trade and investment, one in the form of Statistical Contributions to Canadian Economic History, the other an extended analysis of Canadian—American industrial relationships.
Again, however, war interrupted the relative academic calm and on September 3, 1939, a week before the Parliament of Canada decided we were at war, he was summoned to Ottawa to help set up the Federal Government’s special machinery of wartime civil administration. On the same fateful day he became Secretary of the newly constituted Wartime Prices and Trade Board and subsequently, sometimes consecutively, sometimes successively, Foods Administrator, Deputy Chairman and Chairman of that great agency of wartime price control. His services over these years were appropriately recognized in the King’s Honour List of 1946.
A new phase opened in 1947 when Dr. Taylor became Assistant Deputy Minister — and soon thereafter — Deputy Minister of Finance at Ottawa. Since that time he has seen Governments and Ministers of Finance come and go but he has given to each the same unstinting loyalty, critical judgment and prudent counsel. For he knows perfectly and respects admirably the proper role of the administrator and civil servant in the working of the British system of cabinet government. As Canada’s premier civil servant he occupies today what must surely be the most difficult and exacting post in the public service. But like that paragon of administrative virtue, Lord Haldane, he keeps his desk clear of detail, thus allowing himself time to think problems through, and gives to all his visitors an extraordinary sense of unhurried courtesy, attention and interest. Nor have the relentless distractions of budgets, borrowings and bank rates compelled him to abandon the world of scholarship as those who listened only yesterday morning to his lecture on Fifty Years of Canadian Economics can readily attest.
Eminent Chancellor, I give you one who combines much of the best in both the academic and the administrative traditions of our country and ask that you confer on Kenneth Wiffin Taylor the honorary degree of doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: G.E. Britnell, Head of Economics and Political Science
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