The undergraduate pictured third from the left in the UBC photo above would become an Ottawa ‘mandarin’ within a few years of the date this exposure was made. In 1929, Norman Robertson joined the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa, and by 1941 he was appointed to the highest post within that department: Undersecretary of State for External Affairs. In the intervening years, Robertson was a student at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and later at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C.
Robertson was the recipient, in absentia, of an honorary doctorate from UBC on October 31, 1945. The UBC Senate regretted that “duty in England” prevented him from being present in person to receive the degree. I’m not sure what were the specifics of this duty, but we know that Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was in England for much of October and that Robertson accompanied him. This visit included, no doubt, post-war meetings; another subject of the visit, likely, was the then-secret Igor Gouzenko defection, which happened around this time (although it wasn’t made public until February 1946).
Judging from the caption on a duplicate of the image above in a profile of Robertson (in a 1956 issue of Alumni Chronicle), Robertson was greeting Governor-General Vincent Massey (1952-59) upon his arrival for a visit to London, England, presumably during Robertson’s second appointment as Canada’s High Commissioner there (first appointment, 1946-49; second, 1952-57).
A couple of excellent sources of information on Norman Robertson and his Ottawa mandarin colleagues are:
• The Ottawa Men: The Civil Service Mandarins 1935-1957 by J. L. Granatstein.
• A Man of Influence: Norman A. Robertson and Canadian Statecraft 1929-68 by J. L. Granatstein.
Note: Robertson’s father, Lemuel Robertson, was Professor and the first Chair of the Classics department at UBC. He appears in the group portrait shown below.