John A. Weir - portrait at University of Alberta
John A. Weir Memorial Scholarship Essay 2001
John A. Weir - portrait at University of Alberta

Weir Essay Front Page

CanonsOfConstruction Law Students
Web Publication
Univ. Alberta

John Alexander Weir K.C., B.A., LL.B.

portrait of graduation from law school

Three years after the passing of John Alexander MacDonald, John Alexander Weir was born in Ardock, North Dakota on December 13, 1894.  The first Dean of Law's infancy coincided with Canada's era of tremendous growth.  His childhood witnessed a time when citizens were enjoying the boom of the turn of the century.  He experienced the buoyant mood of Laurier's declaration that "... the twentieth century is Canada's century.

At 20, John A. Weir secured a Rhodes Scholarship in 1914 and within the next two years, managed to graduate with both an arts degree and a law degree. 

He was the recipient of the Carswell Prize as well as the Governor General's Gold Medal.

As a teenager, Weir saw increasing tension on the international scene and by 1916, he enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps.  By the end of World War I, he was a Flying Officer. He resumed his studies at Merton College at the esteemed Oxford University at the School of Jurisprudence in 1918. At the young age of twenty-four, he received yet another scholarship to continue on with a year of graduate studies.

After the period of time spent in active service, and studying and travelling in Europe, John A. Weir was prepared to begin his lifelong call to service as the first dean in the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta.

Portrait of J.A. Weir at Univ. of Alberta, Law Library

John A. Weir - the man

He was loved and respected.  Those who were fortunate enough to have kept closer company were often amused by his wit, bemused by the profundity of his knowledge, and moved by his wisdom. 

In the summer of 1993, a letter to the editor of New Trail, a University of Alberta Alumni Association communique; the retired Neil A. Davidson, Q.C. wrote his recollection of a sample of Dean Weir's sense of humour.  In discussing "domestic relation", his favourite line was "And that, gentlemen, is adultery, pure and simple - well, simple anyway."


John A. Weir was undoubtedly a driven man.  His zeal for law as the Dean of the Faculty of Law from 1926 to the day of his untimely death was comparable only to his devotion to family.  His passion for the continued growth of the faculty was not only an inspiration to those with whom he worked but is an encouragement for those who are at the beginning of the journey into a law career.

He must have decided consciously to race up the steep gradient of life's path.  From this, future students can draw strength. It was noted that he did not gripe about the intolerable enormity of his task yet he sought to conquer it with his physical and spiritual all. Imagine, when he passed away, Canada was rationing tea and coffee. Can any academic think of a worst fate?

N.B. Edmonton Bulletin: an independent newspaper in public service, Edmonton, Alberta, Wednesday, June 3, 1942 original bound copies in Alberta legislature library. Front page headline articles on the day of J.A. Weir's death included:

  • "R.A.F. to double scope of raids:  day attack made after Essen Raid" by Edward W. Beattie
  • "British circle to rear of Nazis in Africa" by Edward Kennedy
  • "Canada's war effort lauded by N.Y. Paper" CP article
  • "Chinese pierce Jap's flank" CP article
  • "7,700 sweeps in month:  250 planes daily over France"
  • "7 allied ships sunk off India" AP article"

This essay was originally submitted to the John A. Weir Memorial Scholarship Committee, at the University of Alberta, Law School in 2001 by Mona Chan, the publisher of this web magazine.  and is republished here in the web site as war is being waged in Iraq, in March 2003.  Headlines on the Web and in newspapers today in 2003 reminds us of the 1942 Second World War headlines on the day of Dean Weir's death in 1942.

© 2001 Mona Chan