A look back in time: an influential leader

Nature Canada is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. With such an extensive history it is not surprising that Nature Canada has experienced a great deal of change. This includes changes in those holding the position of Chairman and Board of Directors members.

Through my work archiving the scrapbooks, photos and minute books, I found one such person that stood out more than the rest to me. His name is Dr. Walter Massey Tovell. Born June 25, 1916 to Dr. Harold Thomas Murchison Tovell, a medical doctor and radiologist and Ruth Lillian (Massey) Tovell, an author.

photo of Dr. Walter Massey Tovell

Dr. Walter Massey Tovell (left).

Dr. Tovell was a member of the well know Massey family through his mother’s side. They owned and ran the Massey-Harris Company, today the Massey-Ferguson Company, manufacturers of farm equipment. Dr. Tovell made a name for himself in his own right through his enthusiastic involvement in the field of Geology.

Throughout his lifetime Dr. Tovell was active in many organizations. He held a doctorate in geology, was a professor at the University of Toronto, and was president and founder of the federation of Ontario naturalists. From 1973-75 Dr. Tovell was director of the Royal Ontario Museum after previously working as the curator. In his hometown of Dufferin County, Ontario, Dr. Tovell was the benefactor of the local museum and archives.

Starting in early 1963 Dr. Tovell joined the Nature Canada board of directors. In 1965 he ascended to the role of vice chair and also held the positions of chair (1966-68) and secretary (1969-1972) within the organization.

Along with his many involvements in and around conservation and museums Dr. Tovell also published multiple books on the Niagara Escarpment and other geological concerns. In 2001 he was awarded the Ian Shenstone Fraser Memorial Award for The Guide to the Geology of the Niagara Escarpment.

On December 30th 2005, at the age of 89 Dr. Tovell passed away.

Prince Philip and Dr. Walter Massey Tovell

Prince Philip (left) and Dr. Walter Massey Tovell (right) 1967

Through my research of Dr. Tovell I was greatly impressed by the dedication and the long and influential life he lived. Dr. Walter M. Tovell impressed me as a wonderful role model and an extremely influential man in the conservation, geology, and museum fields. Not only did he teach his passion, he constantly tried to support museums as well as assisting in the building of archives. This is of particular interest to me as I will be pursuing a career in museum studies myself, and hope to one day bring history to life as Dr. Tovell did.

We would like to thank our guest blogger Rebecca Perrin for this post. Rebecca is a Co-op student with Nature Canada who loves to spend time enjoying the beauty of nature.