B orn in Calgary on 6 July 1907, George Francis Gillman Stanley was educated in Calgary and received a B.A. from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He went to Oxford University in 1929 as the Rhodes Scholar from Alberta, and at Oxford earned a B.A., M.A., M.Litt. and D.Phil., and held a Beit Fellowship in Imperial Studies and a Royal Society of Canada Scholarship. He also played for the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club which won the Spengler Cup in 1931.
G eorge Stanley returned to Canada in 1936 to be professor of history at Mount Allison University and head of the history department. He was on the staff of that university until 1946, although from 1940 to 1946 he was on military leave.
S tanley had joined the military upon arriving in New Brunswick. He qualified as a lieutenant in the New Brunswick Rangers and is still an active member of the Association of that regiment which ceased to exist in 1947. He served as an infantry training officer in Fredericton and then proceeded overseas to be an historian in the Historical Section at Canadian Army Headquarters in London. Among his numerous responsibilities were the Canadian War Artists. He became Deputy-Director of the Section and was discharged as a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1947 in Vancouver. He came out of retirement to help fight floods in the Fraser Valley in 1948 and was on the Reserve of Officers until 1967.
A t the University of British Columbia (1947-1949), Stanley held the first ever chair in Canadian history in Canada. Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, he went to Ottawa in 1949 to do research into the history of Canadian government policy in dealing with native people. This work resulted in a series of articles which have frequently been reprinted and used as sources for further research.
I n 1949 Stanley was appointed head of the history department at the Royal Military College and he served in this capacity for twenty years and as the first Dean of Arts (1962-1969). He became a member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1950 and received the Society's Tyrrell Medal for history in 1957. At the Royal Military College, he taught the first undergraduate course in military history ever given in Canada. Twenty years of R.M.C. graduates passed through his classes; he taught most of the senior officers in Canada's Defence Forces, including several Chiefs of Staff. In 1989 when he retired from his post as Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, a testimonial dinner was given in his honour at Gagetown, and the guests at the head table were all Canadian generals, who had flown in to honour their former professor! Many of his former students have achieved distinction as professional historians.
T he years in Kingston were busy ones. Stanley served as secretary and president of the Kingston Historical Society and edited Historic Kingston for several years. He was president of the Arts Society, and director of the Art Collection Society, served on various committees working to save Kingston's old limestone buildings, was president of the St. Andrew's Society, and acted as clerk of his church's vestry council. He was president of the Canadian Historical Association (1955-1956), a member of the Massey Commission's Committee on Historic Sites and Monuments (1950-1951), and a founding member of the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario (1953-1969). He was chairman of the federal government's Centennial Publications Committee and acted as chairman of centennial celebrations in Pittsburgh Township (Ontario). It was while Stanley was at the Royal Military College that he suggested the basic design for the Canadian flag which was adopted 15 February 1965.
S tanley's The Birth of Western Canada was first published in 1936, reprinted in the 1960s and was reissued in 1992 - 55 years after its original appearance! It remains the classic account of the Riel Rebellions. At R.M.C., Stanley wrote Canada's Soldiers because he needed a textbook for cadets studying Canadian military history. This became required reading for every service person for three decades. During his Kingston period, he also wrote In the Face of Danger, New France: The Last Phase, Louis Riel (a definitive biography), The Story of Canada's Flag, A Short History of the Canadian Constitution, and edited In Search of the Magnetic North, For Want of a Horse and several volumes for the Royal Society of Canada.
A fter twenty years at the Royal Military College, Stanley returned to Mount Allison University in 1969 to set up the first programme in Canadian Studies at a Canadian university. Here he taught trail- blazing courses in "Canadian civilization" dealing with literature, music, architecture and culture. Here he wrote Canada Invaded, 1775-1776 and a short history of The Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus. He served as a member of the Commission de Planification Académique de l'Université de Moncton (1969-1972), and as a member of the advisory panel to the Symons Commission on Canadian Studies (1972-1975). He was a founding member of the Atlantic Canada Institute. He also served as a member of the Federal Government Advisory Board on Canadian Military Colleges (1973-1979), on the council of the New Brunswick Army Cadet League and of the Maritime Automobile Association, and as president of the New Brunswick Council of St. John Ambulance. He was a director of the Canadian Association of Rhodes Scholars (1983-1987) and of SEVEC, and continued his long-standing role as corresponding member of the Institut d'histoire de l'Amérique française.
S tanley retired from Mount Allison in 1975 but continued to do research and write. He produced his War of 1812: Land Operations. In 1982 he became Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick and served in this capacity until 1987. Stanley's term of office brought a hectic schedule of public engagements throughout the province as New Brunswickers celebrated various bicentennials. As well as receiving the Pope and hosting numerous visiting diplomats and political leaders, Stanley also entertained most members of the Royal Family. While Lieutenant-Governor, he continued to act as General Editor of The Collected Writings of Louis Riel in five volumes, which appeared in 1985 after seven years of work by five Canadian scholars.
A fter completing his term as New Brunswick's twenty-fifth Lieutenant- Governor since Confederation, Stanley returned to his home in Sackville and resumed his scholarly and civic activities. He served as a member of the Advisory Board on the Canadian War Museum (1988-1990). In 1989, he published Toil and Trouble, the story of the 1870 military expedition to Red River, and in 1991, Battle in the Dark, an account of the 1813 battle at Stoney Creek. The Role of the Lieutenant- Governor appeared in 1992.
S tanley served as Honorary Colonel of the New Brunswick Regiment (1982-1992). Many years previously, he had received an Army Efficiency Medal, but in 1992 he was awarded a C.D.; at 85, he was almost certainly the oldest Canadian soldier so to be decorated. Dr. Stanley is Honorary Ex-Cadet # H8899 of the Royal Military College. He has 12 honorary degrees: Laval, Mount Allison, St. Dunstan's, Alberta, Royal Military College, St. Francis Xavier, University of New Brunswick, Dalhousie, Calgary, Ottawa, Moncton, and St. Thomas. He is Professor Emeritus of both the Royal Military College and Mount Allison University. He is a Knight of Justice of the Order of St. John and holds the Victoria Medal with bar of the Order. He is a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Lazarus and a Comendador of the Brazilian Order of São Paulo. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Historical Society (London), the Company of Military Historians, and the Heraldry Society of Canada. He is a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International. He is a Life Member of the Royal Canadian Legion, the New Brunswick Teachers' Association, the York- Sunbury Historical Society, the Kingston Historical Society, the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, the Military Institute of Fredericton, the Fredericton Garrison Club, and the Union Club of Saint John. He had the distinction, while he was the Queen's Representative in New Brunswick, of being made an honorary citizen of the "Republic of Madawaska." In January 1994, he was awarded a special certificate of merit by the Kingston Historical Society; this was to mark the 100th anniversary of the Society and to recognize Dr. Stanley's efforts in behalf of the Society and his long devotion to their work and to historical research and conservation.
D r. Stanley's design of the Canadian maple leaf flag brought him much public recognition. He was the central figure in 1968 of a flag day parade at Stoney Creek, Ontario. Twenty years later, he returned to help the community celebrate what is now a well-established annual Canadian flag festival. As a tribute to Dr. Stanley, the community commissioned Elizabeth Holbrook to sculpt his bust, and a bronze casting of her fine piece was formally installed in the foyer of the splendid new city hall on that occasion. During the 25th anniversary celebrations of the maple leaf flag in 1990, he was specially honoured in Ottawa and Toronto. In 1991, a bronze plaque was erected at the Royal Military College to commemorate the Canadian flag-R.M.C. connection and Dr. Stanley's role in the choice of design. In October 1992, he was the special guest at flag raising ceremonies in Winnipeg and was made an honorary citizen of that city. On Canada Day 1995, a plaque honouring his association with the flag was erected in his home town of Sackville, New Brunswick; in 1996 a street was also named for him.
Sanley enjoyed a well-deserved retirement. He continued to read manuscripts, review books, give interviews and talks, encourage young scholars, and maintain an active interest in the militia, cadets, St. John Ambulance, and SEVEC. He answered a steady flow of letters from school children asking about the Canadian flag. He never missed an opportunity to promote Canadian citizenship and love of country. In 1998, Professor Stanley donated his book collection to the Special Collections of the MacKimmie Library, University of Calgary.
G eorge F.G. Stanley was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1976 and promoted to a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1995.
I n 1946 Stanley married Ruth L. Hill, B.A., B.C.L., LL.D. They have three daughters: Della M.M. Stanley [Cromwell], B.A., M.A., Ph.D.; Marietta R.E. Stanley, B.Sc., B.Ed., C.A., M.B.A.; and Laurie C.C. Stanley-Blackwell, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. They have a grandson, Thomas E.G.S. Cromwell, and a granddaughter, Ruth L.H.Q. Stanley-Blackwell.
Dr. Stanley passed away in his 96th year on 13 September 2002. After a traditional funeral at St. Paul's Anglican Church, Sackville, N.B., he was buried with full military honours in Sackville Cemetery.
In March 2003, the Centre for Canadian Studies at Mount Allison inaugurated The George Stanley Lecture Series in Canadian Studies to honour his "great legacy at Mount Allison University".
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