Colleagues and students remember

In 1950 I was a first-year student in Arts who needed Latin as a required course for my degree. My other choice was Maths and I hated that even more, so I chose Latin. I had taken it in high school so it wasn’t new to me, but I was enrolled in a first year course.

I remember Dr Crake as a very kindly man with patience and respect for his students, especially those who weren’t in love with the Classics. Not only did I pass the course, I actually got to like it.

What I learned from him was very helpful for me, when as Chancellor, I was required to say part of the Convocation ceremony in Latin. With every phrase he sat at my shoulder helping me pronounce the words. I was deeply grateful to Dr Crake for what he patiently taught me.

Margaret (Norrie) McCain, Mount A Class of ’54 and Chancellor Emerita

When I first knew Dr. Crake, I was fresh out of Library School, and at my first job. He, on the other hand, was a very important figure on campus – the holder of an Academic Chair, Head of the Classics Department and Secretary to Senate. I rarely had the opportunity to talk with him, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have known what to say.

A few years later, in the early 70’s, I was in the Archives, talking to the Archivist, Lynne Owen about something and he came in with some Senate papers he was placing in the Archives. She left for a moment to get something for him, and I was left to entertain him. I nervously tried to chat him up about his work on the Senate, commiserating that it must have meant a great deal of work. In the course of the conversation, mentioned that my husband, Alex, had just been named to the position of Secretary. He replied, with a twinkle in his eye, ‘Yes, I know. I chose him’…

After Dr. Crake retired from Mount A., I was asked to join to the Board of the Crake Institute and later the Foundation, and have enjoyed this privilege immensely for almost 40 years. In the early years, we managed, with his advice, to set up some projects such as a summer scholarship for a Mount A student to study in Greece or Rome, and the annual J.E.A. Crake Lecture in Classics, an event which has become the longest-standing annual lecture series at Mount Allison. Dr. Crake was well enough to come to the first one. It was held in Brunton Auditorium, there was a full house, and Dr. Crake sat in the front row, beaming.

In subsequent years, the Foundation built upon Dr. Crake’s love for Classics, for study and teaching in the humanities, and as a result presently have over twenty on-going projects to which we provide annual support at Mount Allison. Other organizations which were important to Dr. Crake and those which contributed to his well-being, such as the Anglican Church and certain community organizations also receive support in recognition of his life in the Church and in the community of Sackville, in which he was a quiet, but significant presence.

Margaret Fancy, Chair, J.E.A. Crake Foundation (1980–2018),
and Mount A Class of 2020 (LLD honoris causa)

When I entered Mt. Allison from Sackville High in the autumn of 1947, I was delighted to have such a highly qualified newly appointed head of Classics to teach my first year Latin course. I then aspired to be a classics scholar too and took all of Dr. Crake’s Latin and Greek classes.

I was also committed to English literature so Dr. Crake devised a combined Latin-English Honours program for me.

Dr. Crake earned admiration and respect as a teacher and was at all times thoughtful and kind. As a student I used to visit him in his office where his door was always open to talk about not only the class work I was doing but also whatever I happened to be reading or thinking.

When later I returned to Sackville for visits I always tried to call on my former teacher and would be offered tea with conversation in his apartment in the then called Black House.

I admire and like him very much.

Kenneth Lund, Mount A ’51

My first impressions of Ernie Crake have never changed. Above all he was a gentleman, somewhat shy and retiring in personal relationships with those whom he did not know, but a warm and loyal friend to those fortunate enough to know him.

In mind’s eye I can see him sitting in his office — the door was always open — sometimes pouring over student written papers which he corrected and edited with meticulous care — sometimes absorbed in reading… His deep personal interest in each student was sincere and professional. For one seemingly so shy it was as if this personal interest was almost out of place but he was devoted to his students and thorough in trying to understand the makeup of each individual member of his class. In a very real sense they were his family.

Ernie had a neat and precise mind. Senate minutes he wrote left little room for questioning. Concerned about the lack of organization of academic regulations set out in the University calendar, he took it on as a one-man project to write up the first logical organization of the regulations for inclusion in the calendar. Adopted by Senate with minor changes his effort was the embryo of academic regulations as they are today.

He was rigid in his interpretation of regulations for honours and distinction – there were three classes of distinction at that time. To Ernie, 80% meant exactly that, 80% — it was not 79.8% to be messed around with.

He appreciated that the University had limited resources. He accepted the fact that he could not have a private phone in his office — rather, the phone sat out on a chair in the hall outside his office door to be shared by those who had offices in that end of the floor…

In keeping with the custom of his day he was always neat and professional in dress-shirt tie and suit; there was no mistaking him for a student. He was one who, through academic achievement, through his devotion to his discipline, through his desire to see learning advanced through his students, through his concept of what a university should be, was an outstanding member of the institution he loved…

He was a dedicated churchman — a servant of the congregation where he worshipped and where he donated not only his time and active support, but also gave generously of his resources…

Let us finish on a lighter note. Ernie did enjoy playing a bit of poker. Those in the playing group used to say with a chuckle — you can always tell when Ernie has a good hand — his cheeks and ears get red. Comparing the resources some of the players left on the table, one can only conclude that they too had giveaway signs which Ernie read well.

Don Cameron, Registrar Emeritus, Scotsburn, N.S.

I have been asked to record my recollection of Dr. Ernest Crake. Sorry to say they are skimpy and fragmented. I first heard of Ernie when George came home in Ottawa telling me about the move of his Army Historical Section…

George had enormous respect for Ernie’s qualifications and his scholarship. When he was asked by Mount A to find them a professor of Classics he had no hesitation in recommending Ernie, just out of the army. Later when we were visiting Sackville, Mrs. Crake and Ernie entertained George and me at dinner. They were living in a large apartment at the back upstairs of the old Black House on York Street.

I remember a delicious meal served very formally with beautiful silver and glass. They were excellent hosts and we had a most delightful evening. I remember Ernie as very shy but an excellent conversationalist…

Ernie used to play poker with Norm Weldon, Lawren Harris and some other buddies. Apparently he was quite good at it, and enjoyed it — moreover the men enjoyed him…

How I wish I could relate more. I know he was very proud of his early militia experience; he was an exemplary teacher; he was treasurer of the Anglican Church for years… Beyond this, is a most happy memory of a shy, talented and intellectual man. His generosity has brought great benefit and joy to Sackville. We owe him a considerable debt. I hope he is not forgotten.

Ruth Stanley, Sackville

You have asked me to record some of my memories of Ernie Crake, especially relating to his years as Secretary of the Senate. I recall him as a shy, gentle, man with a strong sense of propriety. He was easily embarrassed by inappropriate remarks made by members of Senate. I must include myself among this group, although he did not seem to take offense at some of the things I said. I think this was partly because my remarks were not of a personal nature…

I also recall that he did his best to interpret the various rules and regulations as outlined by the calendar. I can recall the President quietly whispering questions to him, and Ernie always appeared to have the answer…

I think he had a stronger sense of university politics than most people realized… On one occasion he approached a member of the Faculty Association, encouraging him to press for more Faculty representation on the Senate. On at least one occasion he expressed strong displeasure with the actions of the Board. I think that in his quiet way he supported the objectives, if not the tactics, of many of the rest of us…

Ron Boorne, Emeritus, McLelan School of Engineering, Mount Allison

I took History 290 from Dr. Crake in 1959-60 and was one of the many students who crowded into the Biology Auditorium which was not yet named after Dr. Ross Flemington. We sat alphabetically in assigned seats. On my right was Carl Flett from Campbelton; I don’t remember the name of the boy who sat on my left and who was often absent. I also don’t remember missing a single class, although this did happen from time to time in other courses.

This was the only History course I took, and my goal was to fulfill a distribution requirement. A fortunate rule, as Dr. Crake was probably the most competent of all of my Mount Allison teachers. Students who said he was “dry” did not listen for the subtle irony that he delivered nervously to the huge class. Even then I was impressed by his immense enthusiasm for Roman history, his ability to structure lectures in order to ensure an engaging rhythm, and the attention he paid to individual students. The two words “Good work!” at the end of my first essay were more important than the grade I don’t remember.

He found time for a question or two in each class; his delight in answering them reflected an exceptional command of his subject. Every question became what we call nowadays “a teachable moment”. I don’t think I asked a single question, probably because I was at least as shy as he was…

This frightened twenty-four-year-old teacher appreciated Dr. Crake’s gracious welcome when he saw me on campus in September, 1965. Little did I realize he would continue to be my teacher. His personal and academic integrity were inspiring. This man who had seemed so shy in the classroom was a fearsome adversary in Faculty Council and Senate meetings: he was an exemplary campus citizen, and a public conscience who missed no opportunity to remind us of the values on which the academy and Mount Allison are built. His phenomenal knowledge of process, procedure and precedent allowed him to keep debates on track, and he seemed the soul of academic responsibility.

In the early seventies I had a visit from Dr. Lloyd Duchemin who asked me, on behalf of the Committee on Committees, to become Secretary to the Senate. Convinced that I was not up to the task, I only agreed when he told me Dr. Crake had recommended me as his successor in the position. Ever the teacher, Dr. Crake knew something about the ability and interests of his former student that I didn’t know myself.

I never would have imagined that his educational vision and financial legacy would support teaching and learning at Mount Allison many years after his death. His academic vision and moral legacy also live on in the minds of those who had the very good fortune of knowing him.

Alex Fancy, Mount A ’61, Professor Emeritus

A graduate of Mount Allison in 1963, I took classics courses from Dr. Crake. I was warned by several classmates of how monotonous his courses were. Quite the contrary, I found him and what he taught fascinating.

One of his teaching methods was to relate events which took place several thousand years ago to the present. In my career as a history teacher both in Montreal and Tampa, Florida, I attempted the same technique among my high school students with wonderful results.

Once, not so long ago, I met with one of them who informed me that he and others that I taught were studying classics at Harvard because of my influence over them.

Thank you, Dr. Crake, and Mount Allison University.

Frank Entis, Mount A ’63

I first met and got to know Dr. Crake after coming to live in Sackville in 1960. Dr. Crake was Professor and Head of Classics at Mount Allison University where he had taught for many years. However, it was through our mutual attendance at Saint Paul’s Anglican Church that I got to know Dr. Crake well. During the late sixties and early seventies he and I both served on the Vestry at St. Paul’s. Dr. Crake as I recollect was treasurer for several years.

Dr. Crake was a man of very few words but had a devastating dry wit. He could often capture the essence of a long dissertation with a single word or brief comment, followed by a chuckle.

Dr. Crake served his church faithfully and in many capacities. In 1969, I served as Chapel Warden of St. Paul’s when our Rector, Matthew Graham, resigned to return to England to live. Reverend George Lemmon was selected to replace Mr. Graham but, as is common, there was a delay of several months before the new incumbent could arrange to take up his duties. As Warden, it became one of my duties to arrange for visiting clergy and layreaders to take services during the hiatus. Dr. Crake was pressed into service frequently, although I can’t recall if he was a licensed layreader or not. I do recall that Dr. Crake always wore his academic gown when he conducted services.

It was during George Lemmon’s tenure as Rector of St. Paul’s time that he and Ernie became friends, a lasting friendship which led to George’s involvement in the Crake Institute from its initiation to the present time.

Harry J. Smith, Veteranarian, Sackville

I attended Mount Allison from 1968 to 1972 and, as a Freshman, was a Classics 100 student of Dr. Crake’s. The class convened on the main floor of Centennial Hall. I recall Dr. Crake as being a kindly, intellectual, and extremely scholarly gentleman, very English in his professorial bearing and manner. He always wore a white shirt, neck-tie and tweed jacket to class. Dr. Crake took his subject matter very seriously; he was passionate about classical history, and thoroughly knowledgeable about all aspects of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. He seemed to me to be probably older than his years and, although his classroom delivery could be termed neither particularly animated nor dramatic, I found his lectures both compelling and utterly engaging, as I lingered on his every word regarding the social evolution, the development of trade and commerce, the countless strategic battles fought with many wars won and lost, and the dramatic rise and fall of these almost mythical ancient empires and civilisations.

I was also aware that Dr. Crake cared for his ailing elderly mother, and this knowledge inspired some of the respect and admiration I felt toward him. I knew he must be a gentle and caring man. When my evening walks took me past his home, I would usually observe a light or two through his window, and I wondered if he were engrossed in reading, marking papers, or sitting by his mother’s side. I was saddened to hear he had passed away, though not surprised to learn of the wonderful legacy he has left for those at the University. I think of him often and with fondness.

Garth Steeves, Mount Allison class of 1972