Boom and Unrest (1960–1980)
Did You Know?
The more the “establisment” condemned Elvis Presley, the more popular he became with the younger set. Ed Sullivan, who at one point said he’d never have the likes of Elvis on his show, recanted. On September 9, 1956, Elvis made his first of three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show—the top variety TV program of the era. This Elvis appearance topped all recorded viewing rates. On March 26, 1958, Elvis was inducted into the US Army. Elvis had a recording session on June 19, 1958; it would be his last until 1960. After his release from the Army, he continued his music and film career, sometimes with less than stellar results. Getting back to his roots in 1968, Elvis enjoyed a resurgence of popularity well into the 1970s.
Gone were the days of chaperoned dances and separate male and female residences. The boom of the 1960s heralded phenomenal growth on campus. New buildings were erected and student enrollment leapt from 5,000 students to 17,500 by the end of the decade.
Social unrest, questioning of the status quo, redefinition of roles, and a push for human rights were hallmarks of the 1960s and 1970s. The impetus behind the Counter Culture Movement was spurred by resistance to the Vietnam War (1964–1975), the Second Wave Feminist Movement, and human rights issues, particularly the rights and freedoms of Black Americans. Peace marches, sit-ins, hippies, free love, and psychedelic drugs were common. Formerly taboo subjects such as abortion and domestic violence were out in the open.
Colossal gains in mass communications and technology changed global societies. The spectre of newscasts about the Cold War, the construction of the Berlin Wall (1961), the Space Race, the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the assassination of President Kennedy (1963), the acceleration of the Vietnam War under President Lyndon Johnson, and the first man on the moon (1969) had the power to cast a sense of immediacy on political and social issues.
Art imitates life. Films such as the first James Bond movie Dr. No (1962) blended action, espionage, sophisticated gadgetry, and unabashed sexuality. Music often defines generational tastes and social commentary. Big band sounds, fox trots, and the jive weren’t for the baby boomers. Chubby Checker’s 1960 song and dance The Twist became a smash hit. Rockabilly Elvis Presley, who had broken into the music scene in the 1950s, became a huge success. His swivelling hips, musical versatility, and “Black sound” created an iconic legend. His music crossed boundaries and generations.
In 1964, the Beatles appeared on the American live-recorded Ed Sullivan Show and their looks, long hair, sound, and lyrics captivated younger audiences, launching a period of “Beatlemania” and the subsequent musical “British Invasion”. The Animals, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Three Dog Night, Janis Joplin, Moody Blues, Grateful Dead, Procol Harum, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, the Doors, Pink Floyd, and a litany of other 1960s and 1970s groups and individuals changed the sound of popular music forever.
In comparing the 1963 campus to the campus just six years later in 1969, Professor Rod Macleod says, “It was a completely different place.”
The University of Alberta’s booming student population created a shortage of staff. This led to active recruitment of American professors. Other new academics came from eastern Canada, Europe, and Asia. In 1963, the Faculty of Arts and Science was spilt into two Faculties.
In 1967, Canadian immigration loosened its non-White policies, leading to the arrival of thousands of immigrants from various ethnic groups in Alberta. Western Canadian universities were inundated with foreign students. Unlike the University of British Columbia, whose entrance requirements and provisions regulated the intake of visa students, the University of Alberta had an open-door policy.
In particular, the Faculty of Engineering was compelled to deal with the high enrollment of Asian students who were not fluent in English. Initially, the Faculty attempted to regulate the intake of students from other countries by setting a quota. Accusations of racism, particularly from Hong Kong, made the General Faculties Council reconsider this approach. In the end, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the individual’s test score determined his or her acceptance at the University of Alberta.
While many Albertans enjoyed a degree of prosperity from the 1960s to the 1980s, some occupational groups were left out of Alberta’s financial gains. Poverty still existed. Social issues such as crime, substance abuse, loss, grief, suicide, and loneliness needed to be addressed. To reach and respond to community members in crisis, a variety of community initiatives and service agencies were developed.
In the early 1960s, the Faculty of Extension launched a series of seminars that addressed world politics, world peace issues in canadian politics, and totalitarianism and democracy.
Many Alberta arts organizations were begun in the 1960s and 1970s. Alberta’s early volunteer arts groups such as the Alberta Society of Artists, Women’s Musical Club, Canadian Handicraft Guild, and Allied Arts Council created a climate that encouraged the formation of professional arts organizations. For example, the Citadel Theatre got its start in 1965. The mastermind behind professional theatre in Edmonton was Joe Shoctor, an arts promoter, real estate developer, and lawyer. The Banff School of Fine Arts, started by the Faculty of Extension in 1933, expanded in the 1960s and 1970s and attracted world-class local, national, and international talent. Alberta Contemporary Dancers was formed in 1971, with beginning, intermediate, and performing level classes offered by the Department of Extension.
Mel Hurtig pioneered book publishing in Alberta when he created Hurtig Publishing in the 1960s. The Book Publishers Association of Alberta began in 1975, which consisted of five book publishing companies. The Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association (AMPIA) was formed in 1973.
Heritage Days was begun in 1976; the Edmonton Folk Festival was begun in 1979. Many more festivals are held throughout Alberta but these two events are noted because, by the end of the twentith century, Heritage Days was the world’s largest three-day celebration of cultural and ethnic diversity and required 6,000 volunteers to stage. The Edmonton Folk Festival attracts world-class local, national, and international musicians and a massive audience and requires at least 2,000 volunteers to stage.
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta was formed in 1980.
Many educational organizations were created, changed, or formalized in the 1960s and 1970s. Notably, Calgary’s relationship with the University of Alberta altered. Beginning in 1951, the Calgary Branch of the University of Alberta was expanded when it began to offer first-year courses. By 1957, the Calgary Branch was renamed University of Alberta in Calgary. Sod was turned for the present-day campus in 1958; the campus opened in 1960 with two new buildings. In 1961, the campus was renamed University of Alberta, Calgary. Calgary students initiated a 1963 drive for autonomy. The name changed once again to the University of Alberta at Calgary (UAC). In May 1965, UAC was given academic and financial autonomy. In 1966, the Universities Act was passed and with yet another name change, the University of Calgary was formalalized.
Collège Saint-Jean became part of the University in 1970; in 1978, it became a Faculty.
The Devonian Botanic Gardens and the Circumpolar Institute (formerly the Boreal Institute which was founded in the early 1960s) became affiliated with the University of Alberta.
After reigning for 25 years and governing a stable post-war economy, the Social Credit party was defeated by Peter Lougheed and the Conservatives in 1971. The Conservatives offered what Albertans wanted: a media-savvy government whose campaign slogan was “NOW!” Albertans got a new government headed by a young leader who supported the arts and embraced free-enterprise policies.
While many U of A student activities and organizations grew, some long-standing organizations such as the Wauneita Society faded away. Begun in 1909 to welcome new undergraduate women, the Society thrived for decades. However, by the late 1960s, Wauneita’s meeting place was lost to administrative offices. By 1972, no more undergraduates joined. Students were into doing their own thing.
Students were active in the restoration of Athabasca and Pembina Halls, construction of HUB and a new Students’ Union Building, and gaining parity (1972) with professors on the General Faculties Council (GFC). The Mechanical Engineering Building was occupied by 1973.
One student tradition that survived this era was the annual Bar-None which had “The Aggies” dishing out pancakes from a chuckwagon, square dancing in the streets and hallways, and trotting horses and an ageless shaggy donkey through campus lobbies.
Dr Walter Johns, who had served as President from 1959 to 1969, was succeeded by Max Wyman. Wyman was the first president who was not appointed by the Alberta government but, rather, by the University’s Board of Governors. Wyman served from 1969 to 1974. His tenure as President challenged him to lead the University through a financially tumultuous period riddled with budget cuts and inflation.
In 1970 and 1971, there was an unexpected drop in student registrations. Funding and budgets were slashed and there was a freeze on hiring staff. The University was in a $3.5 million deficit. George Ford, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the time, stated in Sons of Martha that “a general gloom fell across the entire University.” He goes on to say, “My term as Dean, 1971–76, can best be characterized as one of fiscal restraint, administrative change, and turmoil.”
In 1971–1972, the University began offering a spring and summer session with six-week intensive courses. The financial trauma of the early 1970s began to ease by 1975. The University went from an operating budget of $68 million in 1972–1973 to $107 million by 1975–1976.
Harry Gunning succeeded Max Wyman as President in 1974. Five years later, Myer Horwitz took over the helm and remained the University’s President until 1989.