University of Calgary

Little-Known Fact

Submitted by alumni on Tue, 04/11/2017 - 23:13.

Little-Known Fact

Although UCalgary was officially established almost 51 years ago, there’s a quirky chapter that suggests plans were hatched for it in 1910.
by Alex Frazer-Harrison

What do the University of Calgary and the Calgary Stampede have in common? They were both established 105 years ago.

But haven’t we just spent the last year celebrating UCalgary’s 50th birthday?

Yes indeed, but archives reveal an aborted attempt at establishing a University of Calgary that's a little-known chapter in this city’s early history.

Plans for a local university were hatched in 1910. Due to the province not wanting competition against Edmonton’s then-new University of Alberta, Calgary’s school couldn't get degree-granting status, so it ended up taking the official name Calgary College. However, there was still support for a University of Calgary, backed by pioneers like Lord Strathcona (who pledged $25,000), James Shouldice and A.E. Cross. In fact, W.J. Tregillus donated 160 acres in what is now Strathcona Park for a campus.

The school held its first classes in October 1912 at what is now called Memorial Park Library. That first year, 217 arts and 51 law students attended classes — arts students paid as little as $10 per term, plus additional fees. A church hosted the first year’s “closing exercises.”

Further efforts to upgrade to a university were fruitless, and Calgary College folded in the summer of 1915 due, in part, to the outbreak of the First World War, which saw many of its students enlist.

It would take another half-century before the dream of a University of Calgary finally took hold for good. U

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