Ken Hall stepped foot onto this campus in 1951. After graduating from the Honours Geography program in 1955 and following a dedicated teaching career, he became the only two-term president of the McMaster Alumni Association in twenty years. During that time, he led a program which links female graduates to first year female students-in-residence.
Hall is also a founding member of the Student Recruiting Committee, has created an annual leadership conference on campus for high school students and is a co-founder and first president of the Geography Alumni Branch. Being a wearer of many hats, he will soon be adding a graduate’s cap to the collection during the upcoming Social Science convocation ceremony where Hall will be receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Law.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What was McMaster like back then?
Having four major buildings that were here on campus at that time was a little bit confusing, getting to classes and things of that nature. You didn’t quite know where to go when you first came in. No one instructs you and tells you “hey, this is where you’re going”. So, you’re hunting around the first couple of days to figure out where you are and what to do and so on.
It was basically all boys. Not saying that there weren’t girls here. There were some some girls here in nursing program things that sort it but it was basically boys. That’s the way the university was at that particular time. It’s not the way it’s not the way it should be, but that’s the way it was then.
What is the biggest change on campus today?
The thing the thing that really amazes me about McMaster is how it has changed with the school’s population. Right now, you get people here from all over the world who come in and go to the university. There are a lot more women at the university now, too. I really think that’s going in the right direction. It’s just my feeling of what a university should be. I mean, you’re taking your courses but a lot of the things that you do [at university] are exchanging information with other students.
When you have all these people coming in from all over the world, it’s just a wonderful opportunity to mix with them and get their feelings on things. It enriches your experience being here when that’s done. It’s not easy to do. I guess on campus people tend to stay in their little groups, but there are ways of breaking through on that.
Tell me about your time here at Mac.
My parents had moved to Montreal and I said I wanted to go to Mac, and this is a depression year. It wasn’t the time where your parents are working to provide money for you to go to university. If you got here, you got here on your own. My dad got me a job at the Canadian National Railway at that time, [working the] five to one shift. So, I was at the university until four o’clock and then went right down to the to the CNR to work. It was tiring, and it wasn’t exactly the way I expected it to be because it was a tiring experience.
There were times when I could get time off to do certain events that were were going on around campus, but I was going to work all the time and at one o’clock at night when I’d be coming home, I’d be trying to do my homework. So, I can’t say “well, I had lots of fun playing cards”. It wasn’t part of my life at all coming in here. I got through it, but it was it was a struggle. It really was a struggle for me.
What is one piece of advice you would give to students today?
The one thing I want to point out to them, that I think one of the key things at university, besides all the learning you put in, is making friendships. That’s the key thing. In my experience, you can’t do very much in this world unless you have a lot of friends to help you. So, I would say that’s the thing to get the most out of in university.