EnGAGE! at UBC Homecoming

The Friends of Walter Gage at today’s UBC Homecoming were proud to put on display the cover of the book which will be released on November 16. We were particularly thrilled when President Santa Ono dropped by and tweeted the cover of the book to his followers.











We set up in the Alumni Centre building next to the Homecoming registration tables.  The location gave us the opportunity to ask older grads what they remembered about Walter Gage. Many had fond memories and were happy to pre-order a book.

One grad mentioned that we had to see the postcard that was on display on the second floor of the Alumni Centre. It was Dean Gage’s famous Houseboat example in his first year math class.

We also chatted with recent grads who were familiar with Gage Towers and Gage Road but knew little about the man himself. Besides stories about his photographic memory, they were astonished to hear about his generosity when he would reach into his own wallet if a bursary could not be found for a desperate student. When you tried to pay him back, we wouldn’t accept it but simply ask that you consider helping others in a similar manner in future, if circumstances permitted.


There’s still time to pre-order and receive an invitation to the November 16 book launch at the University Golf Club. If you unfortunately can’t attend, no worries as the book distributor will contact you directly to arrange delivery.

The finished size of the book will be 8″ x 10″, all colour, with approximately 120 pages. Book price is $24.99 which includes all taxes.

Dean Gage at the Aggie Ball

We have a response to the May 11 blog! We now know a little bit more about the Aggie Ball.

Dan Cumming (BSA 1967, PhD 1975) shared his story:

“It happened 1966 and 1967 and has stuck with me like most other things from back then.

Each Spring we actually put on fancy clothes and went to the Aggie Ball. For a number of years it happened at the Biltmore Hotel. In the Spring of 1966 I went off to said Ball with my date (also a faculty student). There on the steps leading into the hotel, stood Dean Gage. He was greeting attendees and apparently having quite a good time. I duly marched up to him with my date and we introduced ourselves. I knew who the Dean was, but had never had reason to meet him. We exchanged pleasantries and off the two of us went to the party. I was only a little surprised later in the evening when I bumped into him and he spoke to me by name. His ability to do this was legendary!

A good time was had by all, and that was that.

Flash ahead one year to Spring 1967 and the Aggie Ball, also at the Biltmore.

Upon arriving with my date, there was Dean Gage in pretty much the same spot, almost as if he had actually just stayed there. Up we marched to greet him, but before we were close enough for polite introductions, he called out to me, saying “Dan, so good to see  you! I haven’t seen you since this time last year, but who is this lady? She is not the person you were with last year.”

He was absolutely right. We hadn’t seen each other and it wasn’t the same date I had been with the year before! He had also remembered me by name even though he must have meet hundreds or even thousands of students in that intervening year!

As may be obvious, I have been in awe these 50 years since.”

Many thanks for sharing, Dan.

Still a mystery is the Friends of the Aggies plaque. What was behind the dedication of the plaque? With all the new buildings and changes, where on the campus map does one go to see the plaque today? Any Aggie/LFS grads out there who can shed some light?

Major milestones achieved

The Friends of Walter Gage are thrilled and pleased to share what has been accomplished so far. 

A project plan is in place and being executed. A Book Creation team has been assembled to begin the writing phase. The book will be 8”x10” hardcover, a welcomed addition to any library and/or proudly displayed on a coffee table. A Preview & Celebration event is scheduled for November 16, just in time for the gift-giving holiday season.

While much of the work is voluntary, there are tangible expenses to be paid. Professor Emeritus Michael Davies had a brilliant idea and made it happen. He worked with APSC Development & Alumni Relations to open an account to accept donations. As a show of support, Applied Science Dean Marc Parlange has graciously offered to make a significant matching contribution.

Donations in any amount are welcomed and individual donations of $1,000 or more will receive a tax receipt. Unfortunately it is not possible to issue tax receipts for donations of less than $1,000.

Alumni Relations offices in all UBC faculties have been contacted with the intent to leverage reunion calendar events and promote our efforts. For example, Applied Science is dedicating a webpage to put the spotlight on the book project and will be promoting on the APSC home page.

To those who have taken the time to share their story about Walter Gage, a heartfelt thanks. In a book with approximately 100 pages, clearly not all submitted stories will make it into the book. Not to lose anything, all stories will be posted on the companion website with recognition given to the storyteller. As more stories continue to be added, the list will grow and perhaps, spawn more stories about this amazing man.

Pre-orders are now being accepted. If you wish to ensure the book becomes a reality, please consider making a donation. Click here for donation details.

Stay tuned for more updates!


Friend of the Aggies

I was on campus in 1969 when the faculty of Agriculture changed its name to Agriculture Sciences. Engineering students were affectionately called “Gears” and Agriculture students “Aggies”. In 2005, it was rebranded as the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, to better reflect its expanded focus in the areas of Food Science, Nutrition, and Land, Food, and Communities.

In our book research in the UBC Archives we discovered some interesting photos. Clearly Walter Gage was a Friend of the Aggies. But we don’t know why.





We read one letter in the archives written by dean emeritus Dr. Blythe Eagles that tells us Walter Gage was deeply involved in Aggie student activities including the Aggie Ball and munching on applies sold to raise money for the Crippled Children fund. What was behind the dedication of the plaque? With all the new buildings and changes, where on the campus map does one go to see the plaque today?

Alumni Relations manager Caely-Ann McNabb is helping us find the untold stories that can shed some light. We’d appreciate if you would pass any information to her at  Alternatively, if you have a story to tell, please submit so that we can include Aggie insights about a man who asked nothing in return of the many who benefitted from knowing him, other than asking that they consider helping others in a similar manner in future, if their circumstances permitted.

Oh, Toreador-ah Don’t spit on the floor-ah

Singing Christmas carols at Fort Camp (1948)

Walter Gage had an ear for music and enjoyed listening to the classics performed at the Orpheum theatre. He wasn’t shy to lead a party singing Christmas carols or breaking out in a song if the right occasion arose. One such occasion happened in the Fall of 1977. It’s a story shared by Victor Hugo Noguera, BSc. Earth Sciences, 1981.

Victor was a student in Calculus 101.  He was the only student speaking Spanish-accented English. In no time Walter picked up that he was from Venezuela and far away from home.

When Victor approached Walter with a calculus question after class ended, Walter would look at him intently and with caring eyes and ask – “Mr. Noguera, are you happy? Are you feeling lonesome?  How is your family in Venezuela?”  If Walter only knew the effect that these simple, short and polite questions had on him; that a professor in so high a place would care about the well-being of a foreign student from far ashore was amazing in every way.

Hang on! It gets better. Here’s another story in Victor’s own words.

One November morning, the campus, and all of Vancouver, woke up with an unusual, thick layer of heavy fog.   I had seen fog in my home country but never as dense and spread as that morning.  Once I got to campus, visibility was less than a couple of feet.   I got off the bus (Broadway #10) and hesitantly walked toward the Math Annex building to make my 8 am class.   I struggled to make out one building from the next. Finally, after nearly fifteen minutes getting my bearings I found the buff- colored, vine-covered Math building.   When I finally got to the door of the amphitheater I looked at my watch and confirmed I was about twenty minutes late to the fifty five-minute class.

Those familiar with the amphitheater of the Math Annex building know that the only way to access the classroom is through two doors situated in the front of the classroom floor, at opposite ends of the extra-long blackboard.  As I approached, I could hear Professor Gage dutifully immersed in his lecture, chalking away equations on the blackboard.   I gently opened one of the doors, heart beating, and moved forward into the room. Much to my relief I could see that he was concentrated on solving a complex math problem, and that his face and body were turned away from the class.   I slid into an empty desk, eyes avoiding contact with anybody, and carefully pulled a notebook and pencil from my backpack, and while my breathing returned to normal I proceeded to start taking notes. Professor Gage continued undisturbed, writing formulas fervently and elegantly moving the math problem through a number of logical steps until he reached the much sought after solution.  Once there, he paused, then turned around with a happy and confident glean on his face and extended both of his arms openly to the entire classroom.  He would enunciated with a thundering voice the verse of Bizet’s Carmen Toreador song which goes something like this:

Oh, Toreador-ah

Don’t spit on the floor-ah

Use the cuspidor-ah

That’s what is for-ah

This unexpected triumphant chant inevitably resulted in a strident and unanimous laughter from the entire class.

Once the laugher subsided, a minute or so, he turned his still smiley face toward me, and said in a very audible voice that resonated across the classroom – “Mr. Noguera, I see you arrived a bit late this morning!?” ……. I reckon having problems with your commute?”  …A long deafening silence was only perturbed by the pounding of my heart reminding that I was still alive ……A grin slowly formed on his face as he proceeded to say “Oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. Noguera……we all figured that commuting to UBC every day from Venezuela must be quite the ordeal!”

A second outburst of laughter spread rapidly across from the entire amphitheater, under the friendly and playful expression of Professor Gage.   This brought my agony to an end and left everyone in my calculus class in a state of blissful and relaxed camaraderie.

I promised myself never ever again to arrive late to a Walter Gage math class……. no matter the circumstances.


Having a UBC Faculty Alumni event?

Friends of Walter Gage team members Butch Braidwood and Gary Wong attended Old Red New Red on January 19 2017.  ORNR is the annual Engineering Alumni event sponsored by the Applied Science Faculty Alumni Relations office. It takes place in the Engineering Student Centre during EUS E-Week festivities. Students generously volunteer their time to co-host and proudly display their Engineering Ball models.

Gary Wong gave a brief introduction on the book project to 150+ alumni. Grads were asked to drop by the display table to see the wall posters, read printed stories, share a story, and pick up a bookmark to remind them to add their story to the database.

Many New Red grads could easily connect the name Walter Gage to the student residences but knew little or nothing of his 50+ years on campus. It was an ideal opportunity for them to hear a few stories about this incredible man. They also learned why the area where the display was set up is named the Walter Gage Commons – a tribute to a kind and generous friend of Engineers. New Red that didn’t have a story of their own took a bookmark and promised to ask their parents and relatives if and how Walter Gage impacted them.

For Old Red, the posters and printed stories brought back fond memories about Walter Gage. We heard stories about a grandparent who was in Walter Gage’s math class in Victoria, a branch of UBC back then. One grad told us how he paid it forward by helping blind students with their education. He decided to make audio recordings of books using a reel tape recorder and submit them to the Crane Library. He let Dean Gage know about his volunteer work and received a warm reply.

To some Walter was a fatherly figure who didn’t mince his words. A student in his first year on campus was banned from a mandatory class for complaining loudly. The Dean of Interfaculty and Student Affairs showed no sympathy for his bad manners and made it clear that an apology was in order. It was a hard lesson but one he said served him well in his career.

If you have an upcoming Alumni 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.

EnGAGE! social event

Butch Braidwood extending appreciation

[Click on any image to enlarge]

Michael Davies welcomes guestsOn Monday, December 12, Michael Davies welcomed guests attending our inaugural social function.The event was held to say thanks to early storytellers who have taken the time to tell their personal story about Walter Gage.

Butch Braidwood extended our appreciation to the folks who are helping us to connect and encourage alumni, professors, staff to share their untold stories about this amazing man.

Jim McEwen elaborated why the book project was launched.
If you ask any student Jim McEwen on why the book project was launchedtoday what enters your mind when your hear the name Walter Gage, the common response is Gage Towers, Gage Road, or perhaps the Gage room in the new Engineering Student Centre. It’s disheartening they know little about the man who left an indelible impression on the lives of literally thousands of Vancouverites, British Columbians and Canadians, for over 50 years from 1925 to 1976. The book aims to tell his life story through the memories of those who knew him and were deeply touched by his passion and generosity.

Peter Suedfeld reading Age of Gage stories

Several stories collected so far were printed and circulated. A 1-page draft outline of the book was provided. Without a doubt the best part of the social came when the floor was turned over to storytellers and we heard how Walter Gage impacted personal and professional lives. A highlight was listening to Leslie Whitcutt’s mother Ollie talk about the friendship between Walter Gage and her legally blind daughter. The full story is posted here.

Ollie Whitcutt

Herbert Rosengarten

Philip Loewen, Tom McKeown, Vanessa Clarke, Tara Newell

John Chant

Dan Bowditch, Guenther Schrack

Tom McKeown


Gary Wong, Butch Braidwood, Tony Morgan, Philip Loewen





As more and more stories are added, we’ll start building a sense of community. Lastly, ideas and thoughts were shared on ways we can collect these untold stories and move the book project forward. Special thanks to the Westward Ho! restaurant and Robin Braidwood for being our social event greeter and passing out our Walter Gage bookmarks.   walter_gage_bookmark


Herbert Rosengarten, Gary Wong

Peter Suedfeld, Dan Bowditch, John Chant, Jim McEwen

Dec 12 enGAGE

Anne Stewart engaging Dan Bowditch, Jim McEwen, Butch and Robin Braidwood

Robin Braidwood taking care of name tags and bookmarks

The Walter Gage “Pay It Forward” Scholarship at John Oliver High School

$5,000 annual scholarship sponsored by Jim McEwen and Family

This scholarship honours Walter Gage, a graduate of John Oliver Secondary School in 1921.   He grew up at 5871 Argyle Street in South Vancouver and was a student at nearby Tecumseh Elementary School. As the child of recent immigrants to Canada, Walter Gage benefitted from the efforts of dedicated teachers at these public schools, got an excellent education, and became the first in his family to go to university.  He went on to become a professor of mathematics, a master teacher, the ‘dean of everything’ at UBC for many years, a Companion of the Order of Canada, and the much-loved president of UBC during a crucial period. He was an unforgettable and positive influence for thousands of students at UBC.  He had an uncanny ability to recognize students who were in need of help in order to overcome adversities they faced, and he generously and selflessly provided that help and encouragement to students for over 50 years, at just the right time and in just the right way. Most of those students went on to achieve their potential, and to contribute their best to their families, professions, communities and society.  Those students were his family and his legacy.

I was lucky to be one of Walter Gage’s students.  I also began my education at Tecumseh Elementary School and later was fortunate to have Walter Gage as my math professor.  I was profoundly impressed by this enigmatic professor’s ability to brilliantly simplify seemingly complex topics, and was even more deeply influenced by seeing his professor’s constant efforts to do what he could to help students and others succeed.  I was one of those fortunate students, receiving an unexpected series of scholarships and bursaries from Walter Gage when he was dean of student affairs, enabling me to overcome financial obstacles and successfully complete my BASc and PhD degrees at UBC.  1971-jim-receives-basc-from-pres-gage
In fact, Walter Gage presented me with my diploma upon graduation, and continued to be my role model for years, presiding over the UBC Senate when I served as student Senator, and paving the way for me to become an Officer of the Order of Canada, thanks in part to lessons learned from him.

With this Scholarship at John Oliver Secondary School, I and my family seek to recognize each year the John Oliver graduate who best exemplifies Walter Gage’s best qualities: achievement of educational excellence; sustained efforts to recognize others in need, and to help them overcome obstacles and achieve their potential in life; and a selfless determination to always try to find new ways to help make the world a better place.  We ask all applicants for this Scholarship to become familiar with the exemplary life of an earlier John Oliver graduate, with information to be provided through the school.

We also ask each recipient of this Scholarship to consider what Walter Gage asked of his students:  If this Scholarship helps you succeed, and if your circumstances permit in future, please consider finding a way that you can ‘pay it forward’ by helping other students in future.


Tea-Cup football, Chariot race, and how to make Walter Gage happy

My Walter Gage story evolves around a student accident that happened over 45 years ago and led to a call from the UBC President’s office.

1969-engineering-ballDuring my time on campus I was privileged to be on the EUS Executive and had a “front row seat” to see the strong bond between student engineers and Walter Gage. I attended the special EUS dinners hosted by the President including the one that Michael Davies recollected in his story. It was a honour being seated at the head table with Walter Gage at the annual Engineering Ball.


 T-cup FootballOctober 29, 1970, the date of the annual Tea-Cup football game between the Nurses and the Home Ec female students. The Panhandlers defeated the Homewreckers 12-6 at Thunderbird stadium.
For half time “entertainment” the Engineering and Forestry chariot teams raced around the track. While the race was in doubt for a few nanoseconds, the Gears outlasted the Tree Huggers. Together the football game and the chariot race raised $1,650 for the Crippled Children’s hospital.

Forestry Chariot side view

The chariot race rules are simple: First over the finish line wins. The second rule was: It’s okay to attack the opponent’s chariot to prevent it from crossing the finish line. The half-time chariot race is meant to be a “friendly” war.That year Forestry designed huge chariot that had the team completely inside. It reminded me of the Merrimac ship in the US Civil War. The idea was to protect the “mules” from being distracted by urine spray, pig manure bombs and pelted by eggs. You had to give Forestry kudos for a noble and totally unexpected design. However, it was a Beta version and obviously had not gone through battle trials, especially how it would withstand a barrage of drunken, terosterone-fuelled, vaseline-covered engineers. It would be a one and done creation.

Forestry Chariot front viewI was on the catapult firing eggs into the mayhem. From our sideline vantage point, we also acted as unofficial safety observers. And unfortunately something unsafe did happen with bad consequences. A Forestry student fell under his own massive chariot. The fortress on wheels rolled over him and I could see he was was severely injured. One forearm was cut open leaving huge gashes. We waved to the paramedics standing next to our catapult. To this day I can see in my mind their splashing on antiseptic and then quickly hauling him away.

After the race student warriors returned to the now long gone Civil Engineering building that was home to the EUS office. There obviously was much inebriated celebration during the hosing down ritual.  Word circulated about the accident but nobody knew how bad the injuries where. An hour or so later, the phone rang in the EUS office. It was from President Gage and he wanted to speak to the EUS Executive.

In all my years on campus, it was the most nerve-wracking walk I had ever made. A call to appear before the President on a serious matter. Involving another student’s life. My head was spinning as I witnessed the damage. Did he lose the use of his arms? His hands? What will President Gage say? What should we say? Will there be suspensions?

I remember it well. Walter Gage was solemn, quiet. He looked at each of us and said “Well, boys, looks like things got out of hand.” He told us while the arm injury was severe, there apparently would be no permanent damage. Lucky for the Forestry student. Lucky of all of us involved in the chariot race. He asked us to take precautions to prevent future accidents.

And that was it. No yelling. No lecturing. No punishment. We left and once the shaking in the boots subsided, felt relieved.

End of story. Well, not quite.

Did I say no punishment? Let me correct that. While there wasn’t any formal apologies demanded nor suspensions or fines administered, there certainly was a big impact. I didn’t sleep well that night as I kept thinking…how could we have let this man down who has done so much for the EUS? For UBC? If our EUS/Gage trust relationship was a bank account, we undoubtedly had made a gigantic withdrawal. So going forward, what deposits could we make to avoid going into bankruptcy? What can we do to make him happy? At a personal level, what might I do that would make him happy?President Gage's Address in 1971 Slipstick

There was no immediate answer. However,  it came later in the year in President Gage’s address in Slipstick ’71, the EUS yearbook.

“I was particularly happy to note the highly important part played by many of them, including a large number of former E.U.S. executive members, in the affairs of their communities.”

I vowed back then that I would be an active member of my community and voluntarily offer my services where needed. And over the years I believe I’ve kept my promise to make Walter Gage happy.

Gary Wong
BASc 1971

Saving the student thank you letters

laurenda daniells 1976

For over 50 years from 1925 to 1976 Walter Gage left an indelible personal impression on the lives of literally thousands of young Vancouverites, British Columbians and Canadians. We were thrilled when Laurenda Daniells, University Archivist Emerita, recently added her story to our collection. We learned it’s Lauren who we thank for taking care of Walter’s papers and placing them into the UBC Archives vault.  Her story below also offers a peek into the passionate heart of an exemplary human being.


My memories of Walter Gage are personal rather than academic and go back to 1948 when I first arrived in Vancouver. He was a friend of my new husband, Roy Daniells, and kindly included me in his friendship. As we settled in to campus life, he frequently dropped by in the evening when he was on his way home after a long day at the University. He became very interested in our plans for a new home on Allison Road and when we finally started landscaping our garden he enjoyed watching Roy as he struggled with the rocks and debris on our untidy lot which was the last one in the block to be developed.

As the days went by Walter became intrigued also by the baby that we were expecting. He called the baby, in his mathematical way, “one” pronounced by him as “own-ee“and followed my progress with interest. On the day after Boxing Day he kindly brought us home from the hospital (we had no car) and sat with Roy nervously listening to every breath our new baby drew. My daughters have Walter to thank that their given names do not appear on their birth certificates as he claimed that many people disliked their names and suggested that a good option would be to have them listed only by an initial. I did not agree with this theory but Roy thought it was a good one.

Since the new baby was colicky Roy undertook to take her over in the evenings where he perfected a technique of rocking her carriage, assisted by Walter, who began to arrive many evenings while I first lay exhausted in bed. However, his jovial presence drew me out of my exhaustion and I usually found myself in the living room with a cup of tea in hand listening to his many tales.. A handsome man, almost always with a pipe in hand, he sat smiling as he told stories of his days in Victoria putting on plays, enjoying the college life. He was a man of many anecdotes, some faintly mischievous, about colleagues and friends, but always cheerful and amusing. He and Roy loved to recite poetry. They belonged to a generation where memorizing poetry was encouraged, and as both of them had excellent memories they often spent an evening reciting old favorites. One of Walter’s was “Girt round with rugged mountains the fair Lake Constance lies”, (always in the voice of a nervous boy), and once when I found myself at a hotel beside that very lake I sent him a card reminding him of his favorite piece.

He was still visiting frequently when our second daughter was expected (“two”, pronounced “teewoe” by Walter), and kindly put up with all the household inconveniences of two babies, though I noticed his visits usually started later in the evening when they were safely in bed. But an unexpected Sabbatical leave finally ended the regular visits and when we returned from a year in Europe with our children he had made other connections and we saw him only occasionally.

He congratulated me when I was appointed the first University Archivist though he had once told me that he agreed with Henry Ford that “history is bunk”. Roy visited him during his last illness when he complained rather humorously about an over-zealous member of faculty who turned up at the hospital all too often. He asked for me and when I went to see him he gave me some of his papers for the Archives, and some gold artifacts that had been presented to him as President of the University. “I know you will look after them for me Laurenda.” he said. I put them in a display case which I took into the vault every day when we closed. The papers contained many thank you letters from students he had assisted and were quite touching. I had known of course that he had been tremendously generous to many students but had not realized the extent of his generosity. He was a wonderful man.

Laurenda was married to Roy, an accomplished teaching poet:

“In 1965, Roy Daniells was named the first University Professor of English Language and Literature. Daniells helped the writing careers of Margaret AvisonEarle BirneyJoy CoghillDaryl DukeRoderick Haig-BrownEli MandelMargaret LaurenceEric NicolSheila WatsonPhyllis WebbAdele Wiseman, and George Woodcock, among others. He retired in 1974.
There is a biography of Daniells by author Sandra Djwa.”


It’s with heavy heart and great sadness that we announce the passing away of Laurenda. We’re so happy she attended our Dec 12 social event. We were all looking forward to chatting with her and hearing more stories about Walter Gage. Rest in Peace.