RMC & Rhodes Scholars –
This is the third in our series on Ex Cdets & Rhodes Scholars…
In his own words….. 6219 Dr. Robin Boadway (RRMC / RMC ‘64)
The 1960s were banner years for RMC Rhodes Scholars. In the Class of 1964 alone, three of us made it to the final interviews in our respective provinces and two fortunately emerged successful. The third ran into tough opposition in Alberta. I still remember well the table-thumping in the Yeo Hall Dining room when the results were announced. There was little one could do to prepare for the legendary interview. Indeed, the total experience of RMC was itself ideal preparation, given the emphasis put on leadership skills, participation in rigorous activities and the like. The interview process was intimidating to say the least. Fortunately, I had no idea in advance that the members of my interview board would include the Premier of the Province, the President of the University, the Minister of Justice, a member of the provincial Supreme Court, to name a few. On the other hand, I sensed that appearing in College uniform was also somewhat intimidating to them. The curiosity factor alone led to questions put my way that were softballs: What did I think was the proper role of the military in the 1960s? What was my view of the novel policies of bilingualism? What was my definition of leadership?
Oxford was an amazingly rich and varied experience (perhaps greased by the fact that I was on leave with full pay from the military during my first two years at Oxford). I was ‘assigned’ to Exeter College, one of 30-odd undergraduate colleges at the University (mostly all-male, for which RMC prepared me well!), and the one with a prior attachment with Saskatchewan Rhodes Scholars. The College was one of the oldest, and held its 650th anniversary while I was there. (We celebrated that with a Commemorative Ball at which the guest band was Cream with Eric Clapton.) The College Rector was a famous political scientist, and invited us to meet some well-known political figures of the time, including Harold McMillan, Edward Heath and the sitting Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. Even better, a few of us were invited to spend a wonderful evening with Richard Burton (an Exeter alumnus) and Elizabeth Taylor who were performing in a local play. She was incredibly shy, but he held forth about his time at the College, especially about his exploits with the College rugby team, of which more below. (Click image to enlarge)
My student friends were a diverse and talented crowd. One from Pakistan became the President of the country several years later. One was an All-American football player from the US Air Force Academy, who went on to a distinguished career in the military. Another became a Minister in the Trudeau government. Another was the President of the Oxford Debating Union, and hosted a famous debate on the Vietnam War at which Robert Kennedy spoke and with whom we had a delightful dinner. However, the highlight for me of those years was playing on the Exeter College Rugby Club, which went on the win the University Championship in 1966 (see attached photograph). It is hard to match the experience of being attached to the College rugby team, an experience that I owe to the two marvellous years I spent at Royal Roads where we were introduced to the intricacies of the game by our Mathematics Professor coach, Morris Lancaster. The bonds on the Exeter College team were so tight that when a 40th reunion was held to celebrate the last time the College team had won the championship, the entire team showed up, some from as far away as Australia, South Africa and Canada. I suppose it was their analogue of the Old Brigade!
The academic side of things was equally memorable. I had left RMC as an Engineer and transformed into an Artsman, much to the consternation of my chemistry professor at RMC, the legendary Principal Dacey. He had carefully groomed me for graduate studies in chemistry by setting me up in a lab at RMC, where I could learn the intricacies of glass blowing, titrating and all the other skills needed to do chemistry research. Alas, I decided late in the summer to ‘read for’ a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, intending to leave it at that in preparation for my military career. Unexpectedly, I found economics to my liking and stayed on to do a graduate B.Phil. degree in Economics, something for which my RMC engineering training was surprisingly invaluable preparation. Studying at Oxford was an intimate affair, with virtually all learning taking place through one-on-one meetings with our College tutor (what Stephen Leacock aptly referred to as ‘being smoked at’). The self-discipline we picked up at RMC was much rewarded in such a setting.
After Oxford, I joined 3RCHA in Winnipeg and spent two enjoyable years there, much of it on winter exercises in Shilo, Wainwright, Churchill and Williams Lake. I was posted back to RMC as a lecturer in the Department of Economics and Political Science for three years, and was able to complete my PhD at Queen’s at the same time. I then left the military and joined the Queen’s Economics Department in 1973, where I have been ever since, with one-year interludes at the University of Chicago, Oxford University and University of Louvain in Belgium. I have served as Head of the Queen’s Economics Department, President of the Canadian Economics Association and Editor of the Canadian Journal of Economics. I am currently Vice-President of the International Institute of Public Finance and Fellow of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. My work centers on government policy and federalism, and I have been involved in a policy advisory and research role at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and various government departments in Canada and abroad.
I have maintained a connection with RMC, serving on the Minister’s Advisory Board when it still existed and keeping in contact with colleagues in the Department of Economics and Political Science. The latter includes the privilege of membership for close to 20 years in the Royal Winers, the unofficial Department of Oenology at RMC. I regard my experience and education at RMC as a formative experience, every bit on par with what I received at Oxford and Queen’s. The College is truly one of our national gems and nation-building institutions. As I said, RMC gave me the prerequisites to try for a Rhodes Scholarship. No doubt the Scholarship is infinitely more difficult to get now than it was in my time, at least judging by the caliber of students I see at Queen’s nowadays. Still, I think RMC still has a leg-up in preparing cadets for it, and I fully expect to see many more in the future.