Name: The Honorable Brooke Claxton, D.C.M., Q,C., B.C.L., LL.D.
Convocation date: September 29, 1959
Special Convocation: Golden Jubilee Convocation
Discipline / contribution: public service ; arts and culture
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor:Degree received: Doctor of Laws
I present a distinguished Canadian who with vigor and enterprise has, for more than three decades, made significant contributions to the public life of this country.
Brooke Claxton was born and educated in Montreal, and served in the First World War as a Battery Sergeant-Major, a rank which is reputed to provide opportunities for the exercise of strong leadership, and which his friends suspect may explain his remarkable ability to secure their prompt and complete co-operation
Practicing law for twenty years in Montreal, he was active in many national organizations, and also followed with helpful interest the faltering beginnings of modern Canadian art, music, and drama. He is entitled to recall with pride that, when the Group of Seven found all galleries closed to them as unpopular moderns, he opened his own home for the first public showing of their paintings.
He entered Parliament in 1940, to stay for fourteen years, ten of them in the Cabinet, first as Minister of National Health and Welfare, and then for eight years as Minister of National Defence. In this position he presided with marked success over the difficult adjustments of the postwar years and attended the Paris Peace Conference and more than twenty other major international meetings.
In 1954, shortly after winning his fourth election by a large majority, he retired from Parliament to become executive head of a large company in Ottawa, and he has since resumed many earlier interests and, most notably, has been serving as the first Chairman of the Canada Council. In that position his long standing concern for the advancement of arts and letters in Canada, his wide practical experience, and his driving determination to see the Council solidly established, have been the main reasons for the rapid emergence of the Council as a major influence in the cultural development of this country.
Forty years ago, as a young soldier, Brooke Claxton received the Distinguished Conduct Medal, an award given only for exceptional gallantry. The title of his medal was appropriate then, and was also a sound forecast of the high quality of his subsequent career, on which account, Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate of the University, I ask that you confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: J.F. Leddy, Dean of Arts and Science
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