The envelope from Mrs. Robertson

It took a few months after my arrival in Canada as a young immigrant to realize that it would be possible to study at a university, including electrical engineering, a dream of mine since my early teenage years.

The engineering program at UBC was a five year program, the second year a general engineering year, while the following years specialized in the various disciplines, including electrical and electronics engineering. The first year was an introductory year which was also offered at high schools as grade 13. This is the path I took, beginning with mathematics and German, and followed by English, French and physics.

In March 1953, I found myself in the interior, in the village of Clinton, and found work on the green chain of a small sawmill nearby. Since there was no high school in Clinton, I took the courses by correspondence from Victoria.

There were days when the saw mill did not operate, for example during spring break-up or because of mechanical failures. These days were opportunities for additional study and I did not mind being laid off every so often. After a year and a half in Clinton, having passed all the examinations and having been accepted at UBC, it was time to return to Vancouver and stay with my mother and sister and start studying at UBC.

I had made friends and acquaintances during my stay in Clinton, one of which was Mrs. Robertson, who was the proprietor of the general store of Clinton. I met her when I arranged to write the first set of the provincial examinations at the local school.

When I went to say good bye to her, she told me that I was the first high school graduate of Clinton and that she was proud of me. I also had written the best physics examination in the province in that year (1954). She then handed me a sealed envelope addressed to Dean Gage and instructed me to hand it to him when I registered for my courses. She assured me that he will be there at one of the desks in the registration hall. So it was: when I stood in front of him, he looked at me, asked for my name, and thanked me for delivering the envelope from Mrs. Robertson.

Soon afterward, I was notified that I had been awarded the Pacific Brewers’ Scholarship award to the amount of $400, a very substantial amount at the time and much appreciated and welcomed by me.

Many years later, there were several occasions when I met Dean Gage again, as I had become a young professor in the Department from which I had graduated years earlier. Dean Gage still remembered me by name, which was most amazing; it was said that he remembered thousands of students by name over the years, an accomplishment admired and appreciated by many.

I will not forget Dean Gage.

Guenther Schrack
BASc 1958
MASc 1960