University History and Traditions
241 University History and Traditions
241.1 Historical Sketch
The University of Alberta is a publicly supported, non-denominational, co-educational, multi-campus institution. It is a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and Worldwide Universities Network.
The University's north campus of 89 hectares borders the wooded southern bank of the North Saskatchewan River and lies about two miles from Edmonton's business centre. Away from the north campus, the south campus occupies approximately 148 hectares. Other holdings include Enterprise Square, located in the historic Hudson Bay building on Jasper Avenue and 102 Street in downtown Edmonton; Faculté Saint-Jean, a French-language campus east of the Mill Creek ravine; the botanical gardens near Devon; the Mattheis Ranch near Duchess; lands as far away as Fort Assiniboine and Augustana Faculty, a small liberal arts campus located 100 km southeast of Edmonton in the city of Camrose. A considerable area is held under rental agreements, including the Ellerslie Research Station and the Kinsella ranch.
More than two dozen major teaching and research buildings are situated on the north campus, along with two affiliated colleges, six residence halls, the Students' Union, and service buildings. Michener Park, once part of the south campus, is a student housing area. South of 87th Avenue, on lands formerly part of the original campus, are the quarters of the Provincial Laboratory of Public Health, the Walter C Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre, the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and the Dr WW Cross Cancer Institute. The Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium is situated adjacent to these areas on land owned by the provincial government. An off-campus Book and Record Depository for storage of less-used library materials was opened in 1994.
The Beginnings of the University
Excerpt from University Beginnings in Alberta, by RK Gordon.
We were a small, light-hearted company, hardly more than a score of us; and all of us were young. We lived in a clearing in the poplar bush on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River. On the sloping sides of the great valley and on the flats below the coyotes barked and howled at night, but on top of the bank we taught mathematics and physics, Greek and history, English literature, and biology. Along with some four hundred students and two red brick buildings, we were the University of Alberta; and we felt sure that the future belonged to us, not to the coyotes.
We looked across the river to the newly finished building of the Provincial Government, which in its wisdom had brought us into being and from which came our very modest monthly cheques. Just below the Government Building stood the rather forlorn remains of old Fort Edmonton, but they were not long allowed to cumber the landscape. The new, raw, bustling city was not interested in a reminder of its humble beginnings. The future was the thing, and of the dazzling glory of that future nobody was so mean-spirited as to entertain the slightest doubt.
Alberta became a province in 1905. In 1906 the first session of legislature passed an act to authorize the establishment of the University of Alberta. The act's sponsor was Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Alberta's first Premier and first Minister of Education. His government purchased the site in what was then Strathcona, and Rutherford himself persuaded Henry Marshall Tory to leave McGill to become the University's first President, an office he held from 1908 to 1928.
The act permitted all resident graduates of British and Canadian universities to register as members of Convocation. Convocation elected five members to a Senate; the government appointed ten more. The Senate, acting as the governing body of the University, established the Faculty of Arts and Science as the core of the new institution. In 1910 a revision of the University Act constituted the Board of Governors, with powers of business management and administration.
Classes opened in September 1908, in what is now Queen Alexandra School with forty-five students and a faculty of five: WH Alexander, Classics; EK Broadus, English; WM Edwards, Mathematics; LH Alexander, Modern Languages; and Tory himself. Thence they moved to the upper floor of Strathcona Collegiate Institute and then in 1911 to Athabasca Hall. Athabasca not only served as a residence for staff and students, but also accommodated classrooms, laboratories, the library, the gymnasium, and the administrative offices. The members of the first graduating class received their degrees at the Convocation of 1912, with Mr Justice CA Stuart presiding as Chancellor.
A period of rapid growth followed, with registration reaching 439 in 1914. Assiniboia Hall was completed in 1913, Pembina Hall followed in 1914, and the Arts Building was formally opened in 1915. The Faculty of Law had its beginning in 1912. In the same year the Department of Extension began its work of promoting a closer relationship between the University and the people of the province. In 1913 the Faculty of Applied Science (renamed Engineering in 1948) and the Faculty of Medicine were instituted, the latter able to offer three years of a five-year program.
The Students' Union was established during the first session and the first edition of the The Gateway, the students' newspaper, appeared in 1911. The Committee on Student Affairs began in 1912 as a joint committee of students and University officials to exercise general supervision over matters affecting student welfare and discipline. Today the Council on Student Affairs carries on its work.
Years of Challenge: 1914 to 1945
The outbreak of war in 1914 slowed the pace of development. The new University sent 438 of its staff, alumni, and students to the armed forces. Eighty-two were killed, or died in active service. Their names, together with those of the casualties of the war of 1939–45, are commemorated on a bronze tablet near the entrance to Convocation Hall.
Although the war brought a halt to the building activity, the organization of the University's teaching moved on with the establishment of the Faculty of Agriculture in 1915, the School of Accounting in 1916, the School of Pharmacy and the sub-Faculty of Dentistry in 1917, and the Department of Household Economics in 1918. Of these, the School of Accounting became the Faculty of Commerce, now the Faculty of Business, and Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Household Economics all became faculties.
With the end of the Great War the University rapidly expanded in number of students and staff. New laboratories were built adjacent to the Arts Building, and the Medical Building was completed in 1921; new wings were added following the Second World War. The curriculum was fundamentally revised in 1919–20 to permit greater freedom in election of courses. The first summer term was held in 1919. The institution of the Research Council of Alberta signified an increasing emphasis on science, and a further recognition of the University's involvement in the development of the province.
In 1927 St Joseph's College was opened under Roman Catholic auspices. St Stephen's College had been, as Alberta College South, the first building on the campus. After the union of the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, it was renamed in 1927 and became the United Church theological college for Alberta.
The depression years brought serious problems. Though registration did not decline, its increase was painfully slow, from 1,560 students in 1929 to 2,327 in 1939. Full-time teaching staff increased even more slowly. The budget actually fell and did not recover to its pre-depression level until after the war. No new building took place after the present Corbett Hall was completed. (Corbett Hall was originally constructed as a provincial normal school, not a University building.) RC Wallace succeeded President Tory in 1928, and in 1936 was followed by WAR Kerr, who had been the first Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science. The affiliation of Mount Royal College in 1931 marked a beginning of university work in Calgary. The Banff School of Fine Arts opened in 1933 and the Western Board of Music was established in 1931. Entrance to the University from Grade 11 was abolished in 1937. In 1930 fraternities were permitted; a less controversial change was the abolition of the old practices involved in freshman initiation.
The impact of the war of 1939 was very different from that of 1914–18. Though war naturally disrupted the University's life, there was a determination to preserve its essential being while using its facilities as fully as possible in relation to the national effort. The Air Force took over the three residences and out-of-town students, whose number had not substantially declined, flocked into Garneau boarding houses and made use of a new cafeteria known to later generations as Hot Caf (which was demolished in 1969 to provide the site for the Central Academic Building). Medicine, Dentistry, and Education offered accelerated courses. Engineering offered special courses to members of the armed services. No more important development took place than the acceptance in 1945 by the University of sole responsibility for training Alberta teachers. The School of Education, established in 1928, became a faculty in 1942, and after the war it became, in terms of enrolment, the largest in the University.
Robert Newton was named President on WAR Kerr's retirement in 1941. He played an important part in the framing of the University Act of 1942, which transferred from the Senate to the General Faculty Council jurisdiction over academic matters and vested all final authority in the Board of Governors, whose jurisdiction had previously been confined to finance.
Years of Expansion: 1945 to 1969
With the end of the war, a flood of veterans poured into the University and registration rose from 2,023 in 1943–44 to a peak of nearly 5,000 in 1947–48. Accommodation in classrooms, laboratories, and libraries was pathetically inadequate, and housing was generally even less satisfactory. Army huts only partially relieved the pressure. By 1947 student numbers had tripled from pre-war figures, but full-time teaching staff did not even double. Thereafter the pace of campus development slowly increased. New wings were added to the Medical Building in 1947 and 1948; the first Students' Union Building opened in 1950, the Rutherford Library and the Engineering Building in 1951, and the Agriculture Building in 1953 (now, after enlargements and renovations, the Earth Sciences Building). The Administration Building dates from 1957.
The hectic post-war years merged into the slower growth of the 1950s. Andrew Stewart became president in 1950 and was succeeded by Walter H Johns, who served from 1959 to 1969. In that ten-year period the enrolment rose from approximately 5,000 to 17,500, as the post-war generation came to university age.
This unprecedented increase in numbers necessitated rapid construction of new buildings during the 1960s. The Physical Education Building, the Physical Sciences Building, and additions to the Medical and Engineering Buildings were followed by the Education Building in 1963, the Donald Ewing Cameron Library, the Household Economics Building, and the new residences named after western explorers. The dining centre was named in honour of Reg Lister, who had for so many years taken care of the older residences. The Henry Marshall Tory Building was opened in 1966, Phase I of the Engineering Centre in 1968, and the Clinical Sciences Building of the Faculty of Medicine in 1969. A new Students' Union Building opened in 1967.
No major changes in the University's legal status occurred until the Act of 1966 provided for the establishment of other and separate provincial universities under a Universities' Commission, which has since disbanded.
The increasing range and complexity of subjects studied at the University was reflected in the classification of Graduate Studies as a faculty in 1957, in the division of the Faculty of Arts and Science into two faculties in 1963, and in the foundation of a number of new centres and institutes dedicated specifically to research. A School of Library Science was created in 1968; an independent faculty from 1975 to 1991, it is now, as the School of Library and Information Studies, a unit within the Faculty of Education. Outside of Edmonton, the University's work in Calgary, instituted in 1951, gradually expanded and an affiliated junior college was established in Lethbridge. These became separate universities in 1966. Other junior colleges in Medicine Hat, Camrose, Red Deer, and Grande Prairie became affiliated with the University to help bring higher education to more areas of the province.
The '70s, '80s and Early '90s
Max Wyman, the first graduate of the University to become its president, took office in 1969 and served until 1974; Harry Gunning followed from 1974 to 1979, Myer Horowitz from 1979 to 1989, and Paul Davenport from 1989 to 1994. During these years new problems arose, as a levelling of student numbers and worldwide inflation made the University's projected budgets less adequate than had been expected.
In the 1980s a gradual increase of student numbers resumed, reaching almost 25,000 full-time and more than 4,000 part-time students in 1986-1987. Buildings already begun were completed one by one: the Biological Sciences Centre and the Central Academic Building in 1970, the Law Centre in 1971, and the Basic Medical Sciences Complex and the Engineering Centre, Phase II, in 1972. Also in 1972, the first residents moved into the Housing Union Building, designed and financed on the initiative of the Students' Union. Since then, the Humanities Centre, the Fine Arts Building, one phase of a projected expansion of the Rutherford Library, and additions to the Chemistry Building and Education Building have successively come into use. In 1978, after several years of moratorium on construction, ground was broken for a new Agriculture and Forestry Building; it was completed and opened in October 1981. Part of the Walter C Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre was opened in 1982, and a new building for the Faculty of Business was completed in 1984.
A growing awareness of both architectural and practical value of the University's older buildings led to a decision to renovate, rather than demolish, Pembina Hall. Pembina's transformation into a fully modern graduate student residence was so successful that it earned national recognition in the form of a Heritage Canada Award. Athabasca Hall underwent an even more drastic transformation, as its wooden construction needed to be completely replaced with modern materials; the renovated building was reopened in the autumn of 1977 and received a Heritage Canada Award in its turn. A similar rebuilding of Assiniboia Hall was completed in 1982. Convocation Hall was also renovated, and a new organ installed; several recitals on this instrument have been nationally broadcast since it was inaugurated in 1978. Renovation of the Arts Building was completed in the spring of 1988.
In 1970 the Collège Saint-Jean, in South Edmonton, became an integral part of the University as the Collège Universitaire Saint-Jean and in May of 1978 it became the University's newest faculty when the name officially changed to Faculté Saint-Jean. It offers a bilingual program of courses in arts, science, and education.
A School of Native Studies, now the Faculty of Native Studies, was founded in 1984 to provide a common ground for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students to learn, research, explore and critically examine the historical and contemporary relations that concern native peoples and communities.
Spring Term (a six-week period between the end of the regular Fall/Winter Term and the beginning of Summer Term), during which intensive courses are offered, was inaugurated in 1972 and proved to be an immediate success.
The importance of scholarly publishing in the academic community was recognized when the Board of Governors formally established the University of Alberta Press. Although at first without regular staff, the press nevertheless succeeded in publishing a small group of works of high quality. The appointment of Les Gutteridge as the first Director of the press in 1977 placed its operations on a more adequate basis; since then it has issued a number of works of scholarly value each year. The publication in July 1981, of A History of the University of Alberta, by former president Walter H Johns, was a sign of the maturity both of the University and of the press.
In 1983 the University celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of its foundation in a way that illustrated its significance in Canada and the international community. HRH the Prince of Wales received an honorary doctorate at a special convocation, and opened the World University Games, which attracted more than 6,000 participants from 87 countries to a wide variety of athletic and cultural events. The Universiade Pavilion, the Tennis Centre, and new student housing in Garneau, all completed in time to be used during the games, remain as reminders of the occasion.
In the 1990s the University was severely affected by retrenchments in the provincial budget; a state of financial exigency was declared by the Board of Governors in 1994. As part of an effort to reduce administrative costs without impairing educational quality, a number of faculties and departments were merged. Nevertheless, in fulfilment of the purposes of a generous private donation, it was possible in 1994 to complete the Timms Centre for the Arts, with up-to-date facilities for the performing arts, a sign of the University's continuing commitment to enhancing the quality of life in the community as a whole.
In 1995 alumnus Roderick Fraser took office as the University’s eleventh president. During his ten-year tenure, the University increasingly developed an international outlook and set itself the goal of gaining recognition beyond Canada’s borders for the quality of its teaching and research. In 2001 the University made headlines around the world when a U of A research team developed the Edmonton protocol for transplanting insulin-producing cells to improve the quality of life for people with severe diabetes. University of Alberta researchers were also quick to make their mark in the emerging field of nanotechnology and in 2001 the campus became the home of the National Research Council’s new National Institute for Nanotechnology. Another important scholarly initiative on campus over the past decade has been the Orlando Project, which is both an ambitious history of writing by women in English and a ground-breaking experiment in humanities computing, related to a Master of Arts program in humanities computing that was the first of its kind in the world.
Since the mid-1990s the University has seen a revitalization fueled by a renewed building boom and a successful faculty renewal program. Recognizing that universities across North America would soon be faced with finding replacements for the faculty members hired during the unprecedented period of growth in the late-1960s, in 1996 the University unveiled a plan to begin the renewal process before competition grew fierce. So successful was the strategy that more than 500 new staff members joined the University before the turn of the century. Coincidental with their arrival was the return of construction crews to campus. Although the University struggled to achieve gains in base funding from the provincial government, the buoyant Alberta economy fueled a flurry of construction activity on campus, particularly related to facilities for engineering and medicine. The University also gained facilities from its involvement in helping to host the 2001 Edmonton IAAF World Championships in Athletics. Its major legacy from this event is an athletics facility featuring two playing fields. The facility, named Foote Field in recognition of the contributions of the alumnus who helped to fund it, is located on the south campus. It was joined in 2004 by the Saville Community Sports Centre, also named for its main donor. The Saville Centre was expanded in 2011 to become the home of the Golden Bears and Pandas basketball, curling, tennis and volleyball teams, and one of Canada's finest multi-use sports facilities. The University also established an enhanced presence in downtown Edmonton. One of the first announcements made by President Indira Samarasekera when she took office in 2005 related to the University’s purchase of the historic Hudson Bay building in the Edmonton city centre. In October 2006 this site was inaugurated as Enterprise Square, and by late 2007 several programs and departments were occupying the building. In addition, the University’s reach into rural Alberta was extended in 2004 when the former Augustana University College (founded in 1910 as Camrose Lutheran College) was incorporated into the University as Augustana Faculty. The beginning of the University's second century has been marked by the construction of new signature buildings reflecting a focus on interdisciplinary teaching and research in world-class facilities. The Katz Group Centre for Pharmacy and Health Research and the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Research Innovation were completed in 2009–2010. The Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science followed in 2011, and the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy officially opened in January 2012.
An important factor supporting the campus vitality of recent years has been the growth in private philanthropy. In August 2000 the University successfully completed the largest fund development campaign in its history, raising $195 million from private donors. In 2004 the University officially launched an even more ambitious campaign. That initiative, which raised nearly $582 million to support the work of the University, culminated in 2008, the year in which the University celebrated 100 years of service to the province and people of Alberta. In 2012, a year in which the University saw the highest enrolment in its history with more than 39,000 students, a record number of alumni contributed to an all-time high of $162.7 million in philanthropic support. More than ever, the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the University of Alberta are fulfilling the promise of uplifting the whole people, enriching the communities in which they live, and making diverse contributions felt well beyond the borders of the province where the University first opened its doors in 1908.