Principal and Vice-Chancellor F. Cyril James

In January 1942, with the approval of the McGill University Board of Governors, Principal and Vice-Chancellor F. Cyril James established the McGill University War Records office and appointed R.C. Fetherstonhaugh as the custodian of the records.1 Principal James was instrumental, not only in encouraging McGill’s involvement in the Second World War, but also in the process of recording and remembering McGill’s participation.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor James4

Born in 1903 in London, England, Frank Cyril James attended the London School of Economics and the University of Pennsylvania where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1926. He then pursued a career as an economist, professor of finance and author. Invited to McGill in 1939 to reorganize the School of Commerce, he was appointed Principal and Vice-Chancellor on November 1, 1939.2 While Principal of McGill, he also kept active in his field and participated in the work of many organizations in both Canada and United States.

As the Chairman of the Canadian Advisory Committee on Reconstruction from 1941 to 1943, he was involved in planning for post-war reconstruction and Canada’s industrial expansion. He gave talks around North America and in Great Britain on a variety of topics, particularly regarding Canada’s production capacity and the increase of available labour.

On multiple occasions, Principal and Vice-Chancellor James expressed his belief that Canada experienced a “fantastic” industrial expansion during wartime. He also indicated that “there would be a tremendous need and demand after the war for tools and machine-tools, plastic, building materials, automobiles, planes, washing machines, toasters, electrical accessories and other products.”3 James was particularly committed to highlighting the importance of labour and educational programs destined to fulfill market demands. In his role as Chairman of the Canadian Advisory Committee on Reconstruction, he stressed expansion as a key theme. This was also reflected in the growth of McGill University in the post-war era, particularly by the creation of Dawson College. Dawson was established to welcome returning soldiers and veterans undertaking studies at McGill.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor James made a significant contribution to several important associations and groups such as:

  • National Bureau of Economic Research, member of the American Committee on Financial Research from 1935 to 1945
  • National Conference of Canadian Universities, member of the Executive Committee 1940-1952; vice-president, 1946-1948; and president, 1948-1950
  • Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth, member of the executive 1948-1951, 1960-1962
  • Canadian Universities Foundation, Chairman, 1949
  • International Association of Universities, Vice-Chairman, 1959-1962; and President, 1960-1965.

Recipient of many awards, he also lent his support to various social and charitable organizations. He resigned as principal in 1962. He died in England in 1973.

Additional Galleries

  1. McGill University Senate Minutes, Jan. 21, 1942, p. 164, 0000-2752
  2. McGill University Senate Minutes, Nov. 1, 1939, p. 200, 0000-2752
  3. Hamilton Spectator, March 31, 1943
  4. McGill University Archives, PR000440