Etc. -- Father Frank Forster: A sketch of the president of Assumption College
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A lightly edited transcription of a page 5 article from the 11 Jan 1917 Simcoe Reformer newspaper.

Father Forster
A Stetch of the President of Assumption College
by W. E. Kelly, K.C.
in The Canadian Magazine

Students of the high school at Simcoe, Ontario, a little more than a quarter century ago, will recall a dark-haired, brown-eyed freshman, somewhat diminutive in stature, then known as "Frank," who was ushered up from a district school with all the seriousness and application that usually attend youth similarly favored from the outset. That youth is now the Reverend Father Forester, president of Assumption College, Sandwich.

We remember a boy who seemed always enjoying life to the full, who laughed heartily, played football vigorously, handed in his exercises with scrupulous attention to neatness, and developed the provoking capacity of inevitably gaining the highest marks in examination. Published examination reports seem to indicate that this later capacity pursued him throughout his career as a student.

The first year in a high school provides few opportunities for leadership, and still there was something irresistible about the manner of this beardless boy, the smallest in the class. Even the wise and dignified members of the second form found themselves yielding to his contentions and views upon matters under dispute.

His rapid rise from one important position to another has not taken any of us by surprise. To hear that at the beginning of his professional career, at a time when the rest of us were thinking of settling down to the seriousness of life, he had been appointed head of a Southern States college seemed just as might be expected. His recall a few years later to the presidency of his own college in Sandwich followed as a matter of course. 

Assumption College has had a most successful past. Many of its graduates are numbered among the influential men of Western Ontario, Michigan and Ohio. It was generous of those older men, who had added years of valuable experience to all the greatness with which their alma mater had endowed them to look with favor upon the boy president.

They really hoped the good work would go on. It was the age of young men, and there was no telling how near earnestness and attention to duty might come to maintaining the prestige begotten of previous success. 

Less than a decade of years has passed, yet the same devoted admirers of former traditions now speak with pride of college buildings almost doubled in extent, of equipment increasing, multiplying constantly, of a staff becoming more and more efficient, of a complete reorganization of the curriculum and methods of discipline, of testimonials in the highest form, as well as the confidence of its patrons.

It is one of his early friends who stands responsible for the following: "If I were asked to say what is the  distinctive characteristic of Frank Forster, I should answer an incapacity to admit the existence of an obstacle."

Difficulties there may be in abundance, but difficulties exist only to be overcome. If you have 100 acres of land covered with pine stumps, you have only to remove the stumps to have a farm. No small undertaking, you will answer. Perhaps, but no man would allow a difficulty to stand between him and object of his ambition.

I remember an amusing evidence of this disposition in his early school days. A teacher, whose name is sacred, had a hobby. It cost his pupils an immense expenditure of time and energy upon the very uninviting task of committing to memory long lists of words which were produced as exceptions to certain rules of grammar. 

Class after class approached this stage in dread and horror, accepted the task under protest, but submitted to the inevitable. There was absolutely no hope of relief; the venerable man clung to his pet scheme in defiance of all opposition.

Frank Forster had seen something of it, and decided to talk to the teacher privately. Not at all baffled by the extreme indifference with which this dignified personage treated his youthful visitor, he held his seat and with calm determination advanced one argument after another until the good man saw his hobby as others saw it. Forever afterwards pupils of that class were liberated from this drudgery.

I am told that experiences much more daring are matters of common occurrence with Father Forster in his present position. 

All who have taken part in the management of a boarding school profess a readiness to face anything in the ordinary round of difficulties with one single exception -- the irrepressible solicitude of the all-wise mother insisting upon relaxation and modifications of the rule in behalf of her much-indulged boy, with the less enthusiastic father pressed into service as an auxiliary.

The world has not heard how many boarding school presidents have proved unequal to the task. Nor has the world perhaps realized that the oft-deplored relaxation gradually taking hold during the past quarter of a century is due in great measure to the persistent entreatings of one parent after another, urging every consideration for that "only boy" on earth.

The President of Sandwich has had those parents to deal with also. Their story has been listened to with a patience so untiring and courteous as apparently to guarantee compliance with every request put forward.

A long time was necessary to deliver the answer, and it was nothing less than an heroic attempt to reverse for all the time the parents' views regarding the needs of their precious boy. 

It was not a matter of refusing assent, much less an honest effort to adjust a present conflict of opinion, but the eradication of an abuse so completely as to prevent its ever appearing again. 

From Father Forster's viewpoint, no other measure, of course, could be considered.

It is altogether within the range of probability that some day when the Department of Education will have said "take a chair" to this almost unknown colleague they will soon after discover that a long interview is in prospect, because the caller is there intending nothing less than to convince that distinguished body of the unreasonableness of certain favorite measures which many schools throughout the province are respecting under protest. 

Nor need we be surprised to hear soon after that the Superintendent of Education has come to look upon the aforesaid regulations as provisions which have outlived their usefulness.

Blessed with a splendid physical constitution, Father Forster is taxing it to the very limit. 

Equally at home in the pulpit, conducting a class of higher mathematics, discussing business propositions, enforcing the discipline requisite to a large residential institution, climbing to the highest point of the roof to account for a leakage, inquiring into new schemes for developing the possibilities of the college farm, his round of duties precludes all hope of leisure. 

There is no day in which he is not engaged in several of these; there is no season when such a novelty as a holiday can be ever dreamed of. 

I believe it is on record that he was absent one summer vacation on a business trip to Europe. Authorities do not agree how much ground was covered within those few weeks, but it seems generally admitted that sight-seeing was tolerated after business hours. 

It is only busy men who have any time to spare; this principle must have guided the society in their choice of a general manager in addition to the every-multiplying duties incumbent upon the head of a large and growing institution.

Those who interest themselves in a career are usually given to inquire about formative influences. To such, Simcoe High School takes the credit of contributing a year or two in this instance. No doubt other centres of learning and influence did their share also. But it might be fairly questioned would the result be very different if neither high school or college had lent a hand to his education. 

The history of most men, it is true, depends upon opportunity; but there are few men of achievement for the explanation of whose success we do not look further back than to the years spent in institutions of learning. 

On a large farm a few miles out of town nine or ten sons were brought up understanding their duty to God and fellowman and knowing from early years the value of habits of industry and faithfully to duty. 

They learned how to do everything that had to be done; then attempted many things that had not to be done. 

Any boy who has held his own with eight or nine keen vigorous, enterprising brothers, will likely meet men in later life with equal assurance and urbanity.

All the members of this excellent family -- and among them a highly esteemed church rector located in this district not many years ago -- one after another have won in their respective callings the success which sterling character, ready compliance with duty and practical efficiency alone can secure. A mother gone to her reward, a father whose slower step and diminishing frame record four score years and more, did their part, and did it well.


Father Forster
Image from microfilm

Copyright 2014 John Cardiff