Memorable Manitobans: Hugh Hamilton Saunderson (1904-1984)
Born at Winnipeg in November 1904, son of Hugh Hamilton Saunderson and Lena Dunham DuVal (1878-1918), he attended Kelvin High School and the University of Manitoba, obtaining a BA degree in 1924 with the University Gold Medal. He taught at Kenton School (1925-1926) then returned to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba, obtaining BSc (1929) and MSc (1930, Chemistry) degrees. He studied at McGill University, where he was awarded a PhD in Chemistry in 1932.
He then taught at the University of Manitoba, becoming Professor of Chemistry and Dean of Arts and Sciences in 1945. From 1947 to 1951 he was Director of the Division of Information Services for the National Research Council, then went to the Department of Defence Production until 1954, and returned to the University of Manitoba as its sixth President in 1954, the first graduate of the university to hold its highest office. He was President of the Manitoba Educational Association (1946-1947), and a member of the Scientific Club of Winnipeg (1934-1963).
He retired in 1970, after having shepherded the university through a major period of growth. He held many important national and provincial offices, including a Presidency of the National Conference of Canadian Universities and Colleges (1959-1960), Presidency of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Presidency of the Canadian Club of Winnipeg, and Presidency of the Sanatorium Board of Manitoba (1975-1978).
On 15 June 1934, he married Patricia Jean Coke (1911-1986) and they had a daughter and a son. In recognition of his community service, he received honorary degrees from the University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan, University of Winnipeg, University of Manitoba, and McGill University. He was inducted into the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1970) and he received the Manitoba Centennial Medal (1970) and a Good Citizenship Award (1970). His autobiography was published in 1981 as The Saunderson Years.
He died at the Health Sciences Centre on 14 May 1984. He is commemorated by Saunderson Street at the Fort Garry Campus of the University of Manitoba. His papers are at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.
Birth registration [Patricia Jean Coke], Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Marriage registration [Hugh Hamilton Saunderson, Patricia Jean Coke], Manitoba Vital Statistics.
The History of the Manitoba Educational Association by Ernest Butterworth, MEd thesis, Faculty of Graduate Study and Research, University of Manitoba, 1965.
“Six Manitobans to receive good citizenship awards,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 November 1970.
Cradle to Combine: Kenton, 1881-1981 by Kenton History Committee, 1981. [Manitoba Legislative Library, F5648.K45]
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 16 May 1984, page 61.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 25 June 2023