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Expansion (1950–1959)

Post-war Alberta enjoyed a period of enormous growth. Similarly, the University of Alberta experienced increases in student enrollment and construction of new buildings to accommodate burgeoning space requirements. The booming student population created a shortage of staff, which led to active recruitment of professors.

Edmonton Exhibition

Generally, Albertans were reshaped by World War II, technological advances, and the province’s oil-rich resources. Many returning service men and women brought back different world views and experiences. New perceptions and cosmopolitan flavours spilled into Alberta’s local arts and cultural scenes. The social trend of this era was mass consumerism and American media-dominated influences via film, magazines, records, and a new fixture in the living rooms of most homes—television.

Revitalized churches, women’s groups, community halls, and organizations such as the YWCA and YMCA increased programs and/or volunteer participation to make room for Alberta’s growing urban population.

During the war years, student activities had been primarily focused on contributing to the war effort. The Armed Forces took over a number of University buildings, which included the student residences Athabasca, Assiniboia, and Pembina Halls. From 1941 to 1945, all dances and other events were held off campus. When the University regained the use of its buildings, student activities, particularly sports, resumed. Notably, construction of the Students’ Union Building was completed in 1950.

Most veterans who took advantage of a university education approached their studies with intense energy and focus. By the 1950s, most of these veteran students had graduated and moved into their respective occupations or continued to advance their degrees.

The Departments of Chemistry, Geology, and Mining Engineering were exceptionally busy as a result of the 1947 Leduc oil discovery and the prospect of future opportunities in this field. With the oil boom, American immigrants and American-owned oil companies and investors moved into the province.

Medical Building

Throughout this period of urban growth, rural Alberta held its own. Changing technology revolutionized farming practices, which reduced the need for farm hands. Small hamlets and villages faded into oblivion. The exodus to urban areas allowed some farmers to increase their holdings. Successive good crops and Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s enormous wheat sales to China and the Soviet Union helped farmers’ bank accounts.

Many “displaced persons”—a term of the day for Europeans who came to Canada after World War II—settled in Alberta. These newcomers were often skilled tradespeople or professionals who naturally gravitated to urban areas where employment was most likely.

Up to this period, Canada’s Immigration Act limited non-white immigration. The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1947 so that Chinese-Canadians could sponsor relatives to immigrate to the country. In 1951, small quotas of South Asians from Commonwealth countries (including India, Pakistan and Ceylon [Sri Lanka]) were allowed into Canada.

Between 1944 and 1967, Social Credit won seven consecutive election victories. Led by Premier Ernest Manning, these electoral wins were usually obtained by more than 50% of the popular vote. Albertans re-elected Social Credit because, overall, the party was viewed as providing good government.

Decentralizing the University’s control in Calgary began in 1946–47 with the offering of a two-year teacher training course. Then in 1948–49, the first three years of a degree of BEd in Industrial Arts were offered in Calgary. In 1951, Calgary began to offer first-year arts and science courses.


Advising veteran who became students was a springboard to the development of the Student Advisory Services. This service was established in 1950, with Dr A.J. Cook as its head. Dean of Women, Miss Maimie Simpson, worked in co-operation with Cook on advising female students. The major task of Student Advisory Services was to deal with an array of student difficulties, ranging from vocational choices to financial challenges to personal problems.

On May 18, 1950, Dr Newton tendered his letter of resignation as the University’s President. Dr Andrew Stewart was appointed President in August 1950. In this same year, the University experienced an unprecedented financial contribution from the federal government. The Dominion government voted to provide financial assistance to Canadian universities—of which the University of Alberta received approximately $461,000.

In 1951, the Articulation Committee was given the task of reviewing matriculation requirements. When Justice Frank Ford retired in 1946, Dr Fred McNally was elected as Chancellor, a position he held until 1952. In 1952, Dr E.P. Scarlett was elected as the University’s new Chancellor. By 1952, new matriculation requirements were passed and evening classes for degree credit were begun in Edmonton and Calgary.

Academically, various faculties, departments, and schools had to make important changes.

In 1957, Dr Walter Johns became the University’s first Vice-President. L.Y. Cairns became Chancellor in 1958. President Stewart resigned in 1958 to become the head of the Board of Broadcast Governors. Dr Johns took over as President in 1959.

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