Winnipeg’s great educator

In the library at a Winnipeg school hangs a portrait by Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley. If not for the large-size portrait, a school and a city ward named after the man, it is unlikely  that he would be remembered by many today, despite the fact that he was noted during his time as the “father of Winnipeg’s school system.”

Daniel McIntyre was a man of many accomplishments, which is why he is the 43rd inductee into the WinnipegREALTORS®-established Citizens Hall of Fame that honours Winnipeggers who have made an outstanding contribution to the quality of life of the city. But, it was in the field of education that he truly made his mark. In fact, he was an influence on the educational systems that evolved in the city and province as well as other regions of Canada. It was his influence on education that led to the Canadian government obtaining his appointment in 1935 as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

When McIntyre retired as the Superintendent of Winnipeg Schools in December 1927 (he may have retired as superintendent, but continued as an education system consultant), school board member A. Congdon said: “I consider that Dr. McIntyre has made the greatest contribution to Winnipeg and Manitoba of any man who has lived in this city and province.”

McIntyre’s work ethic and philosophy of life was shaped by his upbringing. He was born on August 27, 1852, on a farm near Dalhousie, New Brunswick, to devout Presbyterian parents, Andrew and Mary, who instilled in him a belief in hard work and strong Christian values.

Mcintyre began his education career as a teacher in New Brunswick from 1872 to 1882 and was the Superintendent of Schools in Portland, N.B., from 1880 to 1882. He then studied law at the University of Dalhousie and was called to the bar in 1882.

“I was impressed with the dignity and importance of the legal profession who came to our little shore town during the assizes,” McIntyre related, “and sometimes in those days thought that I might become a lawyer.”

But he saw no future in N.B. for a law career and decided to head west in 1882, arriving in Winnipeg where he obtained a job with the Brown and Rutherford lumber company. Later, he took a job with criminal lawyer N.F. Hagel, preparing his cases for presentation in the courts. All the while he worked for Hagel, he scoured the want ads in local newspapers, looking for a position in what he considered his “labour of love” — education. McIntyre would later recall that the call of education was too strong for him to resist. His waiting wasn’t too long as he was appointed the principal for Carlton School on February 1, 1883. On June 8, 1885, the Winnipeg School Board passed a motion to advertise for a superintendent for the school system at an annual salary of $1,600. Mcintyre replied to the ad in a letter dated June 27, 1885, and on August 18, he became the superintendent when there were just 10 schools in the system, 43 teachers and 2,200 pupils. By 1912, the number of schools had increased to 43, the teaching staff numbered 445 and student enrolment stood at 18,000.

While still employed as the superintendent of schools, he obtained a BA and then an MA from the University of Manitoba. The university awarded him with an honorary doctorate in 1912.

His felt his goal as superintendent was to make “good men and women,” who were “fitting for life service.” He firmly believed in social harmony with individuals co-operating for the good of society. Through the exercising of freedom and equality, people would find their place of service. Academic excellence was one such pursuit, but not the only one. McIntyre established technical schools for those seeking other career options. His creed was that of Kant: “The object of education was to train each individual to reach the highest perfection possible for him.”

“Until a comparatively recent period the schools were organized on purely academic lines and the avowed aim of education was culture and discipline,” said McIntyre in 1913. “This aim has, however, been greatly enlarged within the past few years, by including within its scope the development of a sense of social and civic duty, the stimulation of national and patriotic spirit, the promotion of public health, and direct preparation for the occupations of life.”

McIntyre cared deeply for those under his charge, whether teachers or students. Always steeped in modesty, despite his many accomplishments, when he received the OBE, McIntyre said that the “honor belongs to the teachers and the public-spirited men who have composed the school board. Without them nothing could have been accomplished, certainly not without the whole-hearted support and co-operation of the teachers, which I have always had.”

“It was the Winnipeg children who won the great educator’s heart, bound for life in this city,” according to his obituary in the Tribune. “Nor did his loyalty to the children of Winnipeg flag for one moment during his long tenure in office in this city.”

How McIntyre deeply cared for children was exemplified by his help to found the Children’s Aid Society in 1898. He was the society’s first president.

When his death on December 14, 1946, was announced, Dr. J.C. Pincock, the then superintendent of city schools said: “His passing marks the close of a career without parallel in the history of education in Western Canada, if not in the whole Dominion.

“His monument and lasting memorial is the Winnipeg schools system, which he created and brought to its present proud position” (Winnipeg Tribune, December 16, 1946).

“More perhaps than any other single individual, he was responsible for establishing the sound foundations on which the public school system in Winnipeg is based ...,” said Winnipeg Mayor Garnet Coulter upon Mcintyre’s passing.

“Into the warp and woof of the education system had been woven many colors,” according to a Tribune editorial two days after McIntyre’s death. “From the plain homespun of the three Rs, it had evolved a fabric of intricate and beautiful tapestry. The hand that moved the shuttle was that of Dr. Daniel McIntyre ...

“His name became synonymous with the Winnipeg school system. Its progress and the fine technical institute that bears his name (Daniel McIntyre Collegiate) remain as monuments to his endeavors.

“Dr. McIntyre was not satisfied with maintaining the status quo in education, but on the contrary he pioneered in the introduction of new teaching techniques and the expansion of the school system to keep pace with the times in vocation training, citizenship, recreation and health. In this way his advances influenced the very centre of community living ...

“He was recognized in neighboring provinces and throughout the country as a man who kept his sights upward.”

All the praise heaped upon McIntyre was well deserved. Hopefully, with his introduction into the Citizens Hall of Fame, more people will become aware of his many contributions to the community.