He taught so much more than math

Dean Walter Gage changed my life … for the better. My slow drift through my first 18 years was challenged on my first day at UBC, in early September 1959. As I sat in an amphitheatre with my brand new Math 120 text book, in walked Dean Gage. It was pure happen-chance. My courses had been chosen by a process of elimination, not vision; and my professors chosen by the administration not reputation. How lucky I was to end up in his class!

The large room was full of students yet he seemed to connect to everyone. His interactions were warm and engaging. Each class was relaxed, instructive and participative. He soon knew all of us by name. It was like having a brilliant private tutor. He cultivated curiosity and understanding in the basic principles of mathematics by helping us understand “the why” and “the how”, not just “the what” when exploring the area of a circle being πR2. (I still need his wisdom for many reasons, including help for finding symbols on my keyboard).

This teacher and mentor nurtured a ‘can do’ attitude that has served me extremely well throughout my life. He also nurtured a ‘should do’ attitude that has been equally important. In that first year on campus, I was banned from a mandatory class for complaining loudly that I expected the teacher to speak English at least as well as my terrible French. As Dean of Men, Gage showed me no sympathy for my bad manners and made it clear that an apology was in order. I was not welcomed back into that class but fortunately was allowed to write the exam. I just barely passed and was able to move on, having learned several valuable life lessons. He taught so much more than math.

Dean Gage gave me excellent and insightful counsel, suggesting I consider engineering, as applied science was more in line with my preference for answers over questions. I followed that good advice and had the pleasure and benefit of another year of his astute and perceptive teaching.

He instilled in me a learning process and a lifestyle confidence that served me well from my first job with IBM, to numerous successes & recoveries from my itinerant ways. I am forever grateful to Dean Walter Gage. He was and is a significant contributor to my wellbeing.

Alan Hutton
BASc 1964