Who was Henry F. Hall?
In the late 1950s, ten years after obtaining its charter, Concordia's co-founding institution Sir George Williams University was full to overflowing. It held classes in any available rental space near Drummond and de Maisonneuve, which at that time was a two-way street called Burnside. Students were turned away for lack of classroom space.
The proposed solution? A brand new, wheelchair-accessible high-rise made from pre-fabricated concrete. When the Henry F. Hall (H) Building opened triumphantly on October 14, 1966 — the same day as the Montreal Metro — an estimated 5,000 passers-by stopped in to marvel at its modernity. And its namesake, Henry Foss Hall, showed up to cut the ribbon.
But who was Henry F. Hall?
In the course of his 40-year career, Hall played a crucial role in the development of Sir George Williams. He helped direct the transition of Sir George Williams College into a credited university, developed its guidance program to facilitate student and faculty growth, encouraged curriculum development, and increased course offerings.
He started out as Canada's first student counsellor (1926), then went on to a career as a gifted teacher (1932-62); dean of Sir George Williams College (1935-57); principal of Sir George Williams University (1957-62), as it subsequently became; and, finally, principal emeritus until his death in 1971.
Hall’s approach to teaching and administration was influenced by the ethos of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the social impact of the First and Second World War; he fought in the former, and supported students and faculty through the latter.
This month, to commemorate Hall's lasting contribution to Concordia, Records Management and Archives is launching a digitized fonds of 350 of his personal documents, correspondence, teaching materials and other items of interest, including the entire Henry F. Hall photograph collection.
The highlights include:
- An autobiographical essay written on October 25, 1920, while Hall was completing his Licentiate of Religious Education at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College. Take a close look at his instructors' comments — he earned a B+.
- Thoughtful notes received by Hall at the time of his retirement in 1962: the album is almost 150 pages long.
- An invitation to lunch with Charles de Gaulle.
- Hall's charming smile as he is bequeathed a silver tea set by the graduating class of 1958.
- This classroom photo of Hall, who always tried to relate to his students.