"Born in 1890, the youngest son of Dr. John Sinclair and Frances Henderson Sinclair in St. Marys, Ontario, Gregg was named in the Scottish manner, after one of his maternal uncles. He spent school years in St. Marys. In 1895 his family moved to the wide prairies of St. Thomas, North Dakota, with retirement of his father from his Canadian medical practice. A quiet and shy child, Gregg was drawn to his favorite pastime of reading and writing. He soon followed his older brothers, John and Arthur Sinclair to university study in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota; Gregg chose not to follow family careers of medicine and law, but instead was drawn to teaching. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with an English major from the University of Minnesota in 1912, he continued there for Masters degree in Education and then took the adventurous opportunity to teach English in Japan. His travels and teaching experience in pre-war Japan offered a life changing experience. Gregg learned the Japanese language, began translating local texts and traveled extensively in Asia.
In 1928 he came to Hawaii and became the first liberal arts English instructor at what was then an agricultural school-- this institution later to become the University of Hawaii. He stayed on in Hawaii and became a full professor, as well as the fourth President of a greatly expanded institution. An avid politician and highly sociable figure, he collected friendships world-wide--- often inviting political personages to visit Hawaii and teach or lecture. In the decades before jet travel Dr. Sinclair brought many scholars and researches as well as politicians and celebrities to the University. Under the Sinclair Presidency (1942-55), the University of Hawaii grew dramatically in size and prominence. An able fund-raiser, he garnered support for his institution on biennial trips to Washington, D.C., as well as on visits around American and Asian universities. He was in office during the troubling years of World War II, and was present at the Dec 7 Japanese bombing of his beloved Honolulu. The day after, on Dec 8, he donned a Civil Air Warden helmet and vowed to remain in Hawaii for the remainder of the war and help with the war effort (although in ROTC at the University of Minnesota as a student he was over 50 years of age for the WWII action.
Dr. Sinclair was awarded numerous academic honors over his career, including, LLB (1949) U of Minn., LLD (1951) Ohio State, LLD (1954) Columbia, LLD (1955) U Cal Berkeley, HHD (1956) Hawaii, D Litt. (1960) U. Keilo, Japan. He taught English at the University, specializing in Dickens and Henry James, in a 30 year span of teaching (1929-1956). Among his many accomplishments, he founded the Oriental Institute and the East-West Center, reaching out to Asian studies. A great internationalist, he developed strong ties with many Asian academics and political leaders during his frequent visits in Asia.
On retiring in 1956, he became the Chair of the Hawaiian Statehood Committee and devoted energy to realizing the statehood of his adopted home state. After statehood was realized, he remained active in state politics, on primary slate for senator. He was appointed U.S. Representative to UNESCO in Paris (1972-6) for two terms and spent a subsequent year at Cambridge University in England.
He married fellow University of Hawaii academic, Marjorie Putnam in 1938. They had no children. Dr. Gregg Sinclair died on 26 July 1976 after extended illness.
The main library of the University of Hawaii was named in his honor, The Gregg M. Sinclair Library. It was at the time of its dedication in 1956 the largest open stack library in the U.S. Dr. Sinclair is recognized as a man of vision and, though softspoken, a man of strong determination, with a great capacity for longlasting friendships and talent for garnering cooperation from diverse people. These many skills helped him to realize his ambitions for both the University of Hawaii and for the U.S. State of Hawaii."
Source: "The Sinclairs of St. Marys, Ontario" by D.B. Montgomery (2010) and findagrave.com
The Gregg M. Sinclair Papers consists of miscellaneous documents related to the Duluth and North Dakota Railroad Company of Drayton, North Dakota. The documents include correspondence, lists of stockholders, and instructions to agents selling subscriptions for stock. The majority of the materials are undated.
Gregg Sinclair's father, Dr. John Sinclair of St. Thomas, North Dakota, was involved in some capacity with the Duluth and North Dakota Railroad Company.