Remembering Walter Gage

UBC Engineering Class of 1970

On Sep 16 2020, the UBC Engineering Class of 1970 held its 50th-year reunion. In compliance with COVID-19 protocols, it was a day-long program hosted on Zoom.

On the afternoon agenda was remembering Walter Gage. On May 28, 1969, Dean Gage was officially appointed UBC’s 6th president. It was a privilege to be on campus and witness the beginning of his role as President. The Eng class of 1970 would return to campus in the Fall to begin the final year on route to a Bachelor of Applied Science degree.

The story behind the Age of Walter Gage book was told to the class. Below is a YouTube video that Gary Wong produced and Butch Braidwood narrated.

Click on image to view YouTube video

Following the presentation, personal memories of Walter Gage were shared by meeting attendees.

Click on image to view YouTube video

While several Eng Class of  70 classmates have bought the Age of Walter Gage book, Bill Chyplyk let others know they can purchase via or at the UBC and UBCO campus bookstores.

Very Old Red meets New Red

In the evening of the day-long reunion was a special meeting where 1970 grads met current EUS students. Comparing campus life 50 years ago and today was the prime focus. Reminiscing included informing students of Walter Gage and the special bond he had with the Engineering Undergraduate Society.

UBC Engineering Class of 1958

A week later the UBC Engineering Class of 1958 held their annual reunion. Their story of staying together and meeting annually is amazing and infectious. It was highlighted in a recent Applied Science Alumni newsletter.

The Age of Walter Gage book was also a topic of discussion. Gary and Bill were pleased to share additional information including where stories submitted by 1958 class members and others could be read online.


UBC Homecoming 2018

The Friends of Walter Gage participated in this year’s UBC Homecoming proudly displaying the now published book.
Michael Davies, Dan Bowditch, Danny Peart, and Connor Jameson were on hand to welcome Alumni members, relatives, & friends ready and willing to tell and hear stories about Walter Gage.

Paul Preminger (1966) and his daughter Whitney dropped by. Whitney who works at the RH Lee Alumni Centre gave her father a copy of the book as a Christmas present.

Paul recalled seeing Walter Gage in the Buchanan building. As another example of his amazing memory, Walter’s first words were “You are Joe and George Picha’s younger brother?”

“He then asked if I came to see him about money.  When I said yes, he handed me a handful of cash (about $500, if I remember correctly) without anymore conversation. No papers to sign, just ‘It is nice to hear that your brothers are doing well.’ Walter Gage was a truly great man and a tremendous Professor!”

On the lighter side, Paul talked about his basset hound named Jeeves. Jeeves used to follow him to class on some days. One morning he made himself comfortable laying on the floor under the blackboard. Walter Gage taught class that day while stroking Jeeves’ belly with his foot!’

Later in the afternoon Michael and Gary attended the Faculty of Applied Science Homecoming BBQ. They were pleased to be walking billboards wearing their Age of Walter Gage book t-shirts. Joining them in the photo is Tara Newell, APSc Alumni Relations Coordinator.




BCBooklook review: Love Affair with UBC

A book review “Love affair with UBC” by Sheldon Goldfarb was recently published in The Ormsby Review.  The Ormsby Review is a vehicle for book reviews and articles of any length, usually extensively illustrated. This service support books and authors of British Columbia.


BCBookLook was envisioned in 2012, designed in 2013 and launched in 2014. By April of 2017, the site had generated more than 2,000 original postings and by January of 2018 the site had attracted more than two million visitors. Click here to learn more about the efforts to increase awareness of B.C. books and authors. 

According to editor Richard Somerset Mackie, The Ormsby Review attracts  an average of 600 visitors a day. With BCBookLook’s help, we look forward to additional book sales but more importantly, making as many people as possible aware of Walter Gage’s legacy. Continue reading “BCBooklook review: Love Affair with UBC”

500 Books sold

The Friends of Walter Gage are pleased to announce that over 500 books have been sold!

Many copies were sold directly at our two main events. On 2017 Nov 16 we held our Book Preview & Celebration and had our official Book Launch on 2018 Feb 15.

On Jan 18 Butch Braidwood and Gary Wong attended the “Old Red New Red” event hosted by the UBC Faculty of Applied Science. With the help of the Engineering Undergraduate Society, 28 copies were put into the hands of alumni members. Many were on campus with Dean Gage and fondly remember his acts of kindness and generosity. And, of course, his incredible memory.

Our goal remains the same: Put as many books into the hands of readers so that they can learn from an amazing man the value of  “paying it forward”.

We haven’t been sitting still since the book launch. Jim McEwen and Connor Jameson have been working with to offer the book online. We learned about the importance of favourable customer reviews. High ratings can boost a book into Amazon’s Top-rated category thus yielding more visibility to potential buyers. It’s a simple way you can help raise awareness – click here to add your comments.

The Age of Gage book can also be purchased at the UBC Bookstore. Butch and Tammy Brimner met with Michael Roth to establish the flow of books to the local outlet. The Bookstore was also very supportive during that great time of year, UBC Convocation.
Michael Davies had planned to place our large Walter Gage poster on a easel on the grad plaza next to the Bookstore’s booth and truck. However, the Bookstore folks suggested that it could be prominently displayed behind their counter where they sold regalia and frames to the new grads.  The change meant that we didn’t need to worry about a gust of wind sending the poster flying off the easel. It could also stay there overnight when they closed up the UBC bookstore exhibit.  Awesome!

Thanks to Bill Chyplyk (APSc 1970), we now have a strong connection with the UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna. The book is now proudly on display at UBCO’s bookstore. Through his efforts the Friends of Walter Gage will be able to gift books to Engineering and School of Business Management student award winners.

Beside private purchases, book readership is being expanded through the public library system and high school libraries. We’re also working on putting copies into the hands of outstanding high school grads as scholarship book prizes, once again suggesting that each consider ‘paying it forward’ as described in the book.

We are continually looking for opportunities to promote awareness and keeping the legacy of Walter Gage alive and well. For example, the poster found its way to the 2018 UBC Applied Science Celebration held on April 12. If you have an upcoming event in the Lower Mainland and would like the Friends of Walter Gage to make a presentation, please let us know (email: We’d be happy to attend.







Feb 15 Official Book Launch

Over 150 friends of Walter Gage gathered at the University Golf Club to celebrate the official launch of the book. Emcee Butch Braidwood read a letter from President Santa Ono who was planning to attend but had to unfortunately sent his apologies at the last moment.

“Walter Gage stands out as an exceptional leader. During my short time as president of UBC I’ve heard more about President Gage than any other president…His memory for student’s names was unsurpassed and is now the stuff of legend. I am regularly stopped by alumni who talk about random acts of kindness that President Gage showed them while they were students at UBC…Known as the Dean of Everything at UBC, Professor Gage will never be forgotten because of the way he made people feel. Thank you Shelley for writing this book and thus preserving the memory of this remarkable man.”

Jim McEwen took to the podium and introduced the first guest speaker, Preston Manning. Both he and Walter Gage share a bond as Companions of the Order of Canada.  

“If I had the opportunity to introduce Walter Gage as a member of the House of Commons, I would have presented him as Walter Gage, enabler.” He explained that his vision of government is one that enables people to do what they wish to achieve and become successful. Walter through his devoted service to the university and contribution to education was the perfect example of what an enabler is and does.

The next guest speaker introduced was BC hereditary chief Bill Wilson. In 1973, he  became the second Indigenous person to graduate from UBC’s law school. His humorous story centred around how the law faculty atmosphere back then was way too uptight. So he came up with the idea of arranging a beer bash in the lounge. He was directed to see the Dean Gage to obtain formal approval. Dean Gage’s reply? “Permission granted on one condition – You invite me and we will walk in together.”

Thus enabled by Dean Gage, Bill talked about subsequently  co-founding the first annual Tricycle Race at UBC Law, a tradition that continues to this day. Walter understood the importance of  balancing hard work in class and social fun with classmates.

Chief Wilson reinforced Preston Manning’s belief that education is the key to enabling one to succeed. He and his wife Bev are very proud that twenty-three university degrees have been earned by his family.

Author Shelley Fralic amused the guests by telling how she was initially “persuaded” by Jim McEwen to be the writer. However, as she began reading the stories and going through the archived material, Shelley realized that that she had never come across a person who was so beloved and held in high esteem by so many. She shared a couple of her favourite stories in the book that captured the essence of Walter Gage as math teacher and as Dean of Everything. Everyone enjoyed hearing her read from the book Bill Wilson’s story about his first encounter in a Math 120 class, a shining example of Walter’s extraordinary ability to remember and connect names and faces.

Since including all collected stories in the book would have been impractical, Shelley recommended that people read each one posted on the companion website. As an indication there are still many stories out there still be be captured, she read a funny story given to her that evening by Bob Duff (BASc 1961). 

Special thanks was given by Shelley to Kate Bird for her incredible work digitizing photos and images and to Danny Peart in providing editor support.

In the windup Butch announced that the book is now available at the UBC Bookstore and online from By entering a review on the website, readers can help the book make the Best Seller list.

Thanks go to Tammy Brimner for taking the photos shown in this blog posting. Images can be enlarged by clicking on them.











CBC Radio One’s The Early Edition

Listen  to Stephen Quinn introduce Margaret Gallagher who interviewed Shelley Fralic and Jim McEwen about Walter Gage.


The following article was posted on the CBC website:

‘Mr. UBC:’ why a university prof and ‘reluctant’ president meant so much to so many

Walter Gage strikes a relaxed pose in his office in 1971. Gage was president of the University of British Columbia from 1969 to 1975.

Walter Gage strikes a relaxed pose in his office in 1971. Gage was president of the University of British Columbia from 1969 to 1975. (Kate Bird)

They called Walter Gage “the Dean of Everything” at the University of British Columbia.

Between 1921 and 1975, he was, at various times, a student, a math professor, the dean of two departments and finally university president.

It was a time of change at the school and in the world around it, according to Vancouver journalist Shelley Fralic, who has written a new biography of Gage, The Age of Walter Gage.

“He was known throughout the campus for his generosity; for his wild, crazy teaching style with chalk dust flying everywhere; for his humbleness,” Fralic told The Early Edition’s Margaret Gallagher.

“He was Mr. UBC.”

Fralic described Gage as a funny, bombastic professor whose courses were extremely popular.

Even after his official retirement as president, he continued to teach and stayed involved in the UBC community. He died in 1978.

Walter GageGage’s lectures were popular at UBC, and he was said to frequently leave those lectures coated in chalk dust. (Kate Bird)

Nutty professor

Unlike many of his fellow pupils, Jim McEwen, who was interviewed for the book, was registered for the class he took with Gage.

He says many others stood in the back or snuck in to attend his lectures.

“He did remember the name of every student there. Years later, walking around campus, he’d walk up and say, ‘how’s it going, Jim? How’s it going financially?'” McEwen recounted.

When McEwen said his response was, “A little tight,” Gage secured him a $500 bursary with the only condition being that the favour be paid forward some day.

Fralic says that wasn’t out of the ordinary for Gage. If a student was short on money for courses, he would sometimes just pull $100 out of his pocket, she said, and he wasn’t a stickler for having it paid back.

Walter GageUBC Engineering students push Walter Gage in a car they built called the Wally Wagon, designed for an international competition in 1972 that UBC won. (Kate Bird)

‘Fish out of water’

During Gage’s tenure as president, the UBC board allowed students to join it, Fralic said. McEwen says he was one of the first student senators.

He broke from tradition in his home life as well, according to Fralic. A bachelor his entire life, he turned down the massive home on Marine Drive, dubbed the White House, where other presidents had lived — complete with gardeners, tennis courts, and a waterfront view.

Instead, he lived with his mother in a South Granville apartment.

The school tried to rent out the then-empty house, but had no takers. Gage instead had it converted into classrooms.

“I would call him the reluctant president,” McEwen said.

“Gage was considered to be the only person who could lead the university, but in many ways he was considered a fish out of water. He would much rather be… teaching students.”

Fralic’s new book, The Age of Walter Gage, will be launched Feb. 15 at the University Golf Club in Vancouver.

With files from Margaret Gallagher and CBC Radio One’s The Early Edition







Listen to author Shelley Fralic on CKNW Radio

This morning on Simi Sara’s show on CKNW radio, book author Shelley Fralic explains how she got involved with the Friends of Walter Gage to write The Age of Walter Gage: How One Canadian Shaped The Lives of Thousands”.

Click here to listen to the interview.

Shelley also tells Simi a couple of amazing stories that are in the book. One story was how Walter Gage helped a colleague’s friend publish her book. The author: Emily Carr and the book: Klee Wyck. 

We hope the radio broadcast informs the listeners who only connect the name with the Walter Gage Residences, the three signature towers built on UBC campus in the 1970s. For thousands of others around B.C. and across Canada, Walter Gage meant so much more. Enjoy the broadcast.



Vancouver Sun: Engaged in Education

A big story was included in yesterday’s edition of the Vancouver Sun newspaper. Our thanks go to Valerie Casselton, the Managing Editor of the Sun/Province. Valerie also is a UBC Alumni Association board member and helping us find ways to connect with UBC alumni and faculty emeriti, all current UBC students, faculty and staff, and thousands of Vancouverites, British Columbians and Canadians whose lives Walter Gage touched.

The article has been an immense success in raising awareness. Over 50 new pre-orders have been received and still counting. Each person pre-ordering will receive a special invitation to the Feb 15 official book launch.

The feature article was written by book author Shelley Fralic. You can read it online. In my case, I’ve placed the full page spread into my copy of the book as a keepsake. Print isn’t dead yet!



Walter Gage, Poet

In 1954 Dr.  Henry C. Gunning began his service as the fourth Dean of Applied Science. During his 5 years as Dean he developed a strong relationship with Walter Gage. Those feelings were expressed at the 1975 Engineering Undergraduate Society Ball:

“I would not wish to have been dean if Walter had not been in the higher echelon of UBC administration He helped me in many ways. First as a guest and then as a regular participant, he attended the regular fall dinner for the EUS executive, started about 1954 in the hope that good food, friendly talk and some sage advice might help to keep the roof on the building. He seemed always to have an almost intuitive understanding of and sympathy for the aspirations and motivations of the undergraduates, even when the motivation led to activities of questionable merit…. ”

Henry’s son, Don Gunning, attended the Walter Gage Book Preview & Celebration event on Nov 16th.

[Click to enlarge]

 He brought along a poem that Walter penned specifically for Henry.
“Walter’s poem was one of 17 ‘letters’ from the heads of Applied Science departments, and others, presented at a co-ed farewell gathering in 1959.
They are all nicely collected in a sleeved binder.  Many were in verse, as Walter’s, illustrating the broad talents of the various profs, and perhaps the nature of the times.
It is both a family and a periodic treasure!  I’ve given copies of their father’s letters to friends whose fathers were present – including Janie Shrum and Herb Forward.
They were a most talented bunch – and so interesting in so many ways!”




Nov 16 Book Preview & Celebration

Thursday, Nov 16th marked a huge milestone: the unboxing of the books fresh from the printer. Copies were distributed to storytellers, benefactors, supporters, and pre-orderers who were able to come to the by-invitation-only occasion at the University Golf Club.

MC Butch Braidwood welcomed the gathering of over 70 guests. “Without your stories, financial support, and helping us get the word out, there would have been no book and no one here tonight. But we did it. We all did it.”

He introduced The Friends of Walter Gage and described the vital role that each person played. “The whole thing began at an Engineering alumni social event in Feb 2016. A brief conversation asked why very few campus students knew who Walter Gage was. The idea came up we should write a book. Before you know it, we had a team in place.”

Jim McEwen spoke about the generosity of the benefactors who provided the initial funds to launch the project. Using a brilliant idea from Michael Davies, an account with the Applied Science faculty was opened which offered a tax-deductible receipt. Jim asked for a round of applause be given to three students – Connor Jameson, Jane Procyshyn, and Joshua Sam. They were tasked to bring the books and look after the evening’s book delivery and payment processing.

Shelley Fralic humorously shared what’s it like being relentlessly pursued by Jim. After 462 days, what started as a firm “No, I just retired” eventually became “Yes, only to shut him up!” And Shelley shared she was really glad that she changed her mind. From her research in the UBC Archives and reading of many collected stories, she discovered why Walter Gage meant so much to so many people.

Shelley’s “partner in crime” Kate Bird was the photo editor. She took great pleasure in creating high quality images for the book and acknowledged the many sources for their time and cooperation. Editor Danny Peart thanked everyone for their contribution. “It took a strong team effort to produce what we feel is an outstanding book for you to read and own.”

Gary Wong announced that all submitted stories would now be posted on the companion website. He suggested people read the 80+ website stories and let others know about them. “I’m hopeful your actions will trigger memories and lead to more stories being entered. I know there are some real gems out there about Walter Gage just waiting to be told.”

Gary led a big shout out to Deanna, Tara, and Debbie from Applied Science Alumni Relations for all their support including hosting the companion website and managing the donor funds.

Jim mentioned that book distribution arrangements are underway. An official book launch is targeted for early next year. All new information will be posted on the website.

Butch ended the night by conveying his thanks to Ron Strong (APSc Mech ’67) for graciously being tonight’s event sponsor, Tammy Brimner for being the official photographer, and his wife Robin’s contribution at the reception table with Michael Davies.