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People

People

“It is with a profound sense of responsibility that I come before you today for the first time in my capacity as president of your university. Positions of great responsibility and opportunity come to few men and when they do, tradition has usually marked out a way, a path well trodden by other men which it is fairly safe to follow. But seldom is it given a man or a group of men to lay the foundations of great institution, and while doing so, to blaze a path into which an established order shall compel other men to walk.”
—Henry Marshall Tory, The Address Given to the First Convocation of the University of Alberta, 6 October 19081
Students study in Rutherford Library

Most people envision history as a collection of paradigm shifts, important dates, and powerful events which resonate across time and space. Often missing from such a conception are the stories of those unique individuals whose actions, and re-actions, elucidate a clearer picture of history. The remarkable history of the University of Alberta is comprised of the people—its staff and students—those who laid its foundation, those who carved a path for the institution’s future, as well as for those who have marked the University of Alberta as one of the country’s greatest learning institutions.

The University of Alberta has grown for a century now, becoming one of Canada’s most distinguished schools of learning and research. The stories of the University’s faculty, staff, students, graduates, and friends offer a link between the University’s past, present and future.

The intertwined tales of Alexander Rutherford and Henry Marshall Tory begin the story of the University. Their names remain etched in stone to this day, on two of the oldest buildings on the main University of Alberta Campus: Rutherford Library and the Tory Building. Both men saw the importance and necessity of an institution of higher learning to the newly formed province of Alberta, and both men worked hard to see their dream come to fruition, just as they hoped that future generations would commit themselves with the same fervour to the development of the province. Within the cloistered halls of the University’s first buildings—the Arts Building and Athabasca and Pembina Halls—students and faculty began to shape the future of the University.

Memorable personalities, like Superintendent of Residences Reginald Lister, who lit the first fire in the kitchen of Athabasca Hall and who must have overseen many wild escapades during his time at the University, including watching “the freshmen in 1911 who were shot down a chute, well greased with soft soap, from the first floor to a horse trough filled with cold water.” 2 These are the stories of the people who transformed the University into a home for so many. Where they felt comfortable enough to settle into the University, individuals were able to commit themselves to a variety of ground-breaking research and numerous outstanding accomplishments. It is clear from the numerous artistic accomplishments and awards of former University of Alberta alumni from W.O. Mitchell, author of the Governor General’s award-winning Who Has Seen the Wind, to Margaret-Ann Armour, founder of the University’s WISEST program and a pioneer who has worked tirelessly to promote and encourage women in the fields of science and engineering, that the classrooms and halls of the University of Alberta have seen many of the brightest and talented individuals of the past century.

To understand the impressive growth of the University of Alberta from its very foundation to its standing today as a leading, global institution of research and innovation requires an exploration of the fascinating stories of its leaders, researchers, teachers, staff, students, and alumni.



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