“Then sir, this chair, an object of beauty, carved from mature and sturdy oak, unblemished, perfect from the hands of its maker – there could be no more fitting memorial to the late Henry Maurice Cody.”
So spoke student debater B.J. Thompson upon the unveiling of this thronelike speaker’s chair on Nov. 28, 1928 – 15 months after Cody (BA UC 1920) drowned in the waters of Marten River, near North Bay, Ont. The chair was donated to Hart House by Cody’s grieving parents (his father was Rev. Henry John Cody, who would serve as U of T president from 1932 to 1945). It is an especially appropriate memorial, for the younger Cody was considered one of the finest early debaters of the club. Since the speaker’s chair in the House of Commons in Ottawa was then only seven years old, it was agreed that the unveiling of U of T’s chair would replicate Ottawa’s ceremony. This was an especially appropriate action as the last debate in which Cody took part before leaving his alma mater was attended by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. On the many days and nights when the noisy voices of debate are not echoing off the walls, this empty chair, inscribed with Cody’s name, presents a wrenchingly sad and lonely image – an especially appropriate reminder of a lost child.