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Honorary degree citation - Robert H. L. Slater*

By: Boyd G. Sinyard, June 1969

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Robert Henry Lawson Slater, that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. A native of England, Dr. Slater found his haven of retirement in the Eastern townships of the Province of Quebec after a distinguished and varied career in Asia, Canada and the United States.

To honour Robert Slater is first of all to honour the scholar in history of religions and in Buddhism in particular. His publications on Burmese Buddhism are built upon the long travail of scholarship, fourteen years in the country, a sympathy for its citizens, and a precise philosophical and theological mind, - an exemplification of the high English tradition from which he comes. His becoming in 1958 Professor of World Religions at Harvard University, and then founder and director of the Center for the Study of World Religions there was the deserved fulfilment of a life of scholarship in the field of comparative religion exhibited by only a few scholars in Canada.

To honour Robert Slater is also to honour the writer and soldier. Others besides George Orwell have spent Burmese days and Canon Slater has given us the literary records of his own in a narrative entitled, "Guns through Arcady," that reflects the onslaught of the second world war into peaceable Burina and ends with his memoirs of the long retreating march from Burma to Assam.

Finally to honour Robert Slater is to honour the scholar of international reputation, with friends and disciples in many continents. Since his retirement he has been visiting professor at Benares Hindu University of Ceylon, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and in Australia, Uganda and New Zealand. A series of lctures, delivered and subsuently published at Columbia University entitled "World Religions and World Community" indicates some of the concern of this scholar. His skill at facilitating dialogue among men of different religions and races, interpreting cultures to cultures and at elucidating mankind's various ways of seeing the world and living in it, make him a model of the Canadian scholar's informed, intelligent and creative involvment in the task of communication and cooperation across borders and continents.

It is therefore appropriate that, paradoxical as it may sound, the degree of Doctor of Laws be confered on a religious man. Tantum potuit religio suadere bonoruni. Mr. Chancellor on behalf of the University council and by authority of the Board of Governors I present to you Robert Henry Lawson Slater, scholar, traveller, and patient artisan of a world community.


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