Ossian Walli never discovered a mineral deposit, built a mine or operated a mining company, but during his 22 years as principal at the Haileybury School of Mines he influenced hundreds of students who did. Appointed to the position when the school was revived under government direction in 1945, he administered its operations and taught mathematics and mineral chemistry classes. He built a reputation for the school that is recognized in mining communities around the world for graduates well versed in all disciplines related to mining.
The Haileybury School of Mines, founded in 1912, was closed during the Second World War due to declining enrollment. After the war, on the basis of a recommendation of the Royal Ontario Commission on Mining, the Ontario government reopened the school as The Provincial Institute of Mining. Walli was appointed as the first principal of the school.
He worked closely with advisers from the mining industry and government and designed a unique curriculum that includes all aspects of the industry – mining, geology and metallurgy – rather than one specialized discipline. The graduates’ comprehensive knowledge became increasingly valuable as the industry grew more complex.
In the postwar atmosphere in which the school was reorganized, Walli was able to educate a diverse group of students, many with only partial high school credit. Many were Second World War veterans or foreign students, largely from underdeveloped nations.
In 1967, the institute was incorporated into the Ontario community college system and became the School of Mines within Northern College. Walli was the first president of Northern College, a post he held until his retirement two years later.
Walli was born in Copper Cliff, Ont., on December 26, 1903. As an honor student at Sudbury High School, he won a scholarship to study at Queen’s University from which he graduated in 1925 with a B.Sc. in chemical and metallurgical engineering. After several years in the industry with the Kaufmann Rubber Company at Kitchener, Ont., and the International Nickel Company at Sudbury, Ont., he resumed his studies at the Ontario College of Education, graduating in 1932. For 12 years, he taught at vocational and technical schools in Fort William, Hamilton and Timmins, where he was vice-principal.
Of the accolades bestowed upon him were the “Cobalt Man of the Year Award” and the Citizenship Award for Education. In 1972, he received a citation from William Davis, then premier of Ontario.
Walli died in New Liskeard, Ont., on March 1, 1991.