The one-hundred-year history of the University of Alberta has been a century of vision, a vision borne out of the partnership of two ambitious men: Alexander Cameron Rutherford, the first Premier of Alberta, and Henry Marshall Tory, a McGill University professor who became the University of Alberta’s first president. Critics at the time dismissed their dream as impossible, or at best impractical, but the vision would become a reality. The passing of the University Act in 1906 by the new government of Alberta paved the way to the official opening of the University in 1908.
The early years, under the careful guidance of Tory, who served as President of the University of Alberta from 1908 to 1928, were fruitful ones in which Tory recruited the University’s first professors and organized the construction of the first university buildings, starting with Athabasca Hall in 1911. These years also saw the shadow of the First World War fall over campus life, as well as the dark spectre of the 1918 influenza epidemic.
After a decline in both enrollment and construction through the years of the Great Depression and the Second World War, the University of Alberta enjoyed a period of expansion that lasted from 1945 to 1969.
The period from the 1970s to the present day has been a time of continued growth. French instruction in Arts, Science, and Education on campus found a home at the Collège Saint-Jean (since called the Faculté Saint-Jean and most recently, the Campus Saint-Jean), beginning in 1970. In 1984, Aboriginal education was formally added to the university mandate in the form of the School of Native Studies.
In the last decade of the 20th century, the University fell under financial siege when the government of Alberta introduced a series of cutbacks to university funding. The costs of university administration came under scrutiny, and many university faculties and departments found themselves compelled to merge in order to reduce costs while struggling to maintain a high level of educational quality for incoming students. Tuition fees were increased following the implementation of the provincial tuition fee policy in 1991, an ongoing increase that continues to generate controversy among university staff and students to the present day.
Now a century strong, the University of Alberta stands as a global leader in higher education and human innovation. The idea of the university is an ongoing, ever-evolving one in Alberta; continually cultivated by some of the finest minds from Alberta, Canada, and across the world. As it casts its sights on the future, the University of Alberta continues to mark its place in history. In the words of the University’s twelfth president, Dr Indira Samarasekera, the University of Alberta should be “a cauldron of new discoveries and new ideas.”