The Conklin History at Victoria College

My family has a close bond with Victoria University. Our family’s connection to Vic spans four generations, beginning with my great-grandfather, David Roblin Clare. After leaving the family farm near Thomasburg (Hungerford Township) when it was convenient for his brother to continue the farming and completing in two years the requirements for High School Graduation (Albert College in Belleville), David graduated from Emmanuel College with a degree in Theology in 1904. He served as a Methodist Minister from that time on in many of the small towns East of Toronto (Tweed, Marmora, Welcome etc). Very progressive for his day, all three of David’s daughters had the privilege of receiving higher education, being among the few women in Canada to obtain university degrees. Margaret, his eldest daughter, attended the University of Toronto and then helped her sisters, Florence and Ida, to come to Victoria College as well in the year of the Great Depression (1929). My great-aunt Flo and her husband, Arthur Cragg, graduated from Vic in 1933 and pursued their respective careers in teaching and Ministery in the United Church of Canada. That same year, both my paternal grandparents also graduated from Vic and each received the Award for Highest Result in their respective courses: Ida in English and History, and William David Conklin in Commerce and Finance. Ida and William married in 1937 after William completed his studies at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall and Columbia University, returning to William’s home town of Kingsville Ontario where they lived until their deaths (2009 and 1977, respectively) and where I myself grew up.

My grandparents often reminisced about the good times they had at Vic as there was a real closeness with the people in their class. What is most unique about grandma Ida’s connection to Vic is not simply that she was a female student (so rare in her day), but also that she was a close friend and figure of Professor Northrop Frye (with page-length photo in his memoirs). In his writings, Norrie Frye refers to Ida as the interesting sister of Flo Clare. Both my grandparents had a good rapport with Frye. But, when Frye invited Ida for an evening at Massey Hall while William was away at Columbia, William sent his sister (my aunt Nora) along on the ‘date’ in an effort to ‘protect his interests’, much to the chagrin of Frye.

Both Ida and William were strong in their respect for the education they received at Victoria and sent each of their four children to university: two sons to Victoria and two daughters to McMaster. In line with family heritage, William Earl Conklin (my father) earned his undergraduate degree in Law from Vic in 1967. My father was then a Don at Nelles House during 1969-70. Under his influence and fond memories, I too continued the Conklin tradition of attending Vic and graduated in 2002 with a double major in Philosophy and Biology. At least four of my cousins have also attended the University of Toronto. But, as our history shows, my family has a particularly strong and special affiliation with great Old Vic.

Story submitted by: Annie Conklin 0T2

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