A history of the financial administration of the University of Manitoba, 1877-1932

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Hunter, Margaret Jane
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This study of the administration of the University of Manitoba focuses on problems that arose due to efforts to maintain private control of a publicly funded institution. Leading members of Manitoba's professional, business and religious communities represented various interest groups on the governing body of the University. Conflict between these groups and over proposed formulas for extension of government control of the University resulted in the retention of a system of financial administration that was totally inadequate. This lax system ended in scandal in 1932: the discovery of a loss of almost one million dollars by the University. The scope of this thesis encompasses three main problems. The history of the financial administration of the University of Manitoba was traced from University archives through its various phases before and after reorganization in 1917. I conclude that University leaders and the provincial government failed, for a number of reasons, to establish a sound system of financial administration for the growing institution until after 1932. Secondly, I have analyzed the story of the Machray defalcations and the findings of the Turgeon Commission. I argue that the provincial governments, the governing bodies of the University, and the community all shared responsibility for the negligence in providing safeguards for the assets of the University. Finally, this thesis provides additions to the existing historiography concerning community leaders of early Winnipeg. It is my argument that the actions of John A. Machray, a highly respected member of the Winnipeg social elite, were not entirely an aberration from the norm: that, in fact, business leaders in the boom and bust era of early Winnipeg did adopt broad interpretations of business morality and legalities in order to survive the changing tides of fortune. This contention is supported on evidence of the unquestioned control and freedom allowed to Machray by his colleagues in the management of the University funds. The first three chapters of the thesis deal with the financial administration of the University of Manitoba as it evolved from 1877 until financial disaster struck in 1932. The final two chapters present a financial analysis of the University trust funds and their progressive impairment until 1932. The nature and extent of the defalcations are considered along with the methods of embezzlement and their concealment. To conclude, there is an evaluation of the responsibilities, motives and attitudes of the people involved and of the social and political climate that provided the setting.