Sir Robert Falconer

Sir Robert Alexander Falconer, clergyman, scholar, educator (b at Charlottetown 10 Feb 1867; d at Toronto 4 Nov 1943). Falconer spent much of his youth in Trinidad, where his Presbyterian clergyman father had been posted.

Falconer, Sir Robert Alexander

Sir Robert Alexander Falconer, clergyman, scholar, educator (b at Charlottetown 10 Feb 1867; d at Toronto 4 Nov 1943). Falconer spent much of his youth in Trinidad, where his Presbyterian clergyman father had been posted. He was educated at London and Edinburgh universities, concentrating on classics and philosophy, and pursued postgraduate work at Leipzig, Berlin and Marburg, Germany. In 1892 he was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Canada and took up a lectureship in New Testament Greek at Pine Hill Divinity Hall, Halifax. Becoming a professor there in 1895, he was appointed principal in 1904.

Falconer is most important, however, for his 25-year tenure as president of UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO (1907-32). A royal commission appointed to investigate all aspects of the university had found administrative chaos and low morale. It recommended a complete constitutional reorganization and implicitly a new president in 1906. To the surprise of many, the 40-year-old Falconer was asked to replace James LOUDON. Much of Falconer's time and energy for the next 2 decades was given to executing the recommendations of the 1906 commission. He inherited a collection of colleges; he left behind him an integrated university that led the country in industrial and scientific, as well as humanistic, research.

An unemotional and cerebral scholar, Falconer was much in demand as a public speaker, particularly on the importance of maintaining the British imperial connection, the nurturing of "idealism in national character" (the title of his 1920 collection of wartime addresses), and the integrity and place of the humanities in an increasingly scientific and practical university environment. Active in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Falconer was one of those who sought to bring his denomination into union with Canada's Methodists and Congregationalists in the 1920s. Such was his reputation within the British Empire that in 1929 Edinburgh University broke with tradition to offer him its principalship, a position that he declined.