Mrs. Godfrey’s Table of Memories

If discovered in an antique shop, this table would command immediate attention. A gem of nineteenth century craftsmanship, its beautiful wood and fine detail might well tempt the serious collector. However, the table is not, and hopefully never will be, for sale.

Constructed from walnut, the oval shaped table when fully extended, measures ten feet in length. While the builder is unknown, his expertise is evident in the scroll surround and ornate pedestal and legs. Considering its elegance and workmanship the table may have been imported from New England.

It was owned by Dr Humphrey Pickard (1813–1890) the first president of Mount Allison University. He, in turn, gave the table to his brother, Thomas Pickard (1819–1895), a teacher at Mount Allison Academy. From Thomas it passed to his son Humphrey Frederick Pickard (1857–1930). Later, ownership came to the latter’s daughter, Clementina Pickard Godfrey. Last week, on July 9th, family and friends gathered around this same Table of Memories to celebrate Mrs. Godfrey’s 103rd birthday!

For a piece of furniture to remain within a family for over a century and a half is remarkable, but equally noteworthy is the career of the table’s owner. Born two years before Queen Victoria was to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee and just prior to Sir Wilfrid Laurier becoming Prime Minister of Canada, Mrs. Godfrey has witnessed all the major events of the twentieth century. While researching this Flashback it was my privilege to be entertained by Mrs Godfrey and her daughter Jean around the Table of Memories. It quickly became apparent that the lady who so graciously received me was also an active participant throughout nine decades of the history of Mount Allison University.

Clementina Pickard entered Mount Allison in 1910 and graduated with first class honors in Mathematics in 1914. A Master’s degree was awarded in 1915. The following year she married her classmate, William Godfrey. In 1930 Rev. William Godfrey became Mount Allison’s first Chaplain and Alumni Secretary. He later accepted an appointment from the head office of the United Church as Secretary of Home Missions with the Maritime Conference.

Meanwhile, Mrs Godfrey maintained close ties with her alma mater through service as editor of the Mount Allison Record 1933 to 1938 and again from 1941 to 1945. Along the way she filled the post of Alumni Secretary for two years. Not surprisingly, the Godfrey’s three children all graduated from Mount Allison — daughters Mary, class of ’44; Jean in ’48 and son Bill in ’53. In 1955 William Godfrey Sr., was honored by the university with the degree Doctor of Laws honaris causa. He became the first Regent Emeritus in 1978, while Clementina’s long service was recognized with the Doctor of Laws degree in 1983, just a few months before her husband’s death.

Now to return to the table. Mount Allison presidents from Dr. Humphrey Pickard onward have sat around the Table of Memories. The first chancellor, Ralph Pickard Bell, a grandson of the first president and an almnus, was a frequent guest at the table. Three generations of family graduates have shared reminiscences of their Mount Allison years at the same board. Looking to the future, Mrs Godfrey noted with pride that a great-granddaughter, Morgan Evans, is a member of the Class of 2000; while her cousin, Emily, will graduate in 2002. Very shortly, yet another generation of Allisonians will meet around Mrs. Godfrey’s Table of Memories!

This Flashback would not be complete without further reference to its central figure — Clementina Pickard Godfrey. Spending time with such an individual is not soon forgotten. Her ready wit and recall of dates and events from the distant past to the present was nothing short of amazing. To top it all, she recited for me the Class of ’14 yell.