The University faced many challenges during the war years. At the outbreak of war in 1914 special arrangements were made for students who wanted to join the war effort. Some graduates, like Harry Sherwood Ranken, were already pursuing a military career at the outbreak of war. Others, however, rushed to sign up. Final exams and graduation had been hurriedly organised to allow the medical students to go off to serve. Nineteen of these students attended a special ceremony in the Senate Room, seven of them were already in military uniform. Below is an excerpt of the charge to medical graduates by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Sir Donald MacAlister, given on 17 August 1914 after the degrees were conferred:
The University, recognising the national emergency which has unhappily come upon us, has sought by every means in its power to make it easier for you to serve your country, as you propose to do, in the medical profession. We wish you Godspeed whatever enterprise you may have to undertake for the good of your fellow-countrymen. We hope and believe that as doctors you will never forget that the honour of the University is in your hands, and that you will not only maintain but advance it. I would remind those of you who are about to serve your country in the field that your work extends not only to the wounded of your own side but to those of the other side also. It is incumbent on you as physicians and surgeons to do all you can to alleviate suffering and to preserve the life of friend or foe. I speak with feeling on this subject because only today I have returned from the seat of war. I passed through the ranks of thousands of soldiers, and personally as a physician but largely because I am Principal of this University I met with nothing but kindness, courtesy, and helpfulness at a time of very great difficulty and stress. As members of the medical profession you are non-combatants and helpers of all your fellow men, though some may meantime be technically your foes. The Senate, small in numbers, but representing, I am perfectly sure, the feeling of all members of the University, sends you forth to your work with prayers that all may be well with you.