Naturally, the energy on the University of Alberta campus reflected what was happening in the world arena. With the declaration of war, many staff and students joined the cause. University staff and students wanted to serve together but unfortunately many were dispersed to separate units. The University of Alberta contingent served in the infantry, artillery, medical corps, Royal Flying Corps, and Royal Naval Air Service.
The University's administrative show of support included the formation of a Rifle Club. In 1916, Henry Marshall Tory decreed that joining the Canadian Officers' Training Corps (COTC) was mandatory for all students but he later reversed his decision so that the COTC could remain a voluntary organization. Actions spoke louder than words when Tory would put on a private’s uniform and drill with the University’s COTC.
The University went to great lengths to remain connected to its scattered staff and students. For example, the Soldiers’ Comfort Club raised money and shipped students even compiled and sent out the Service News Letter, which provided service men and women with homefront cheer every two weeks.
Even with an ongoing war, Tory was foremost an educator. He travelled overseas in 1917 to become part of an initiative that would teach courses and prepare soldiers for their return to civilian living. This endeavor became known as the Khaki College, then Khaki University
Logically, staff and student numbers on campus declined during the war. Women dominated graduating classes and in 1918 took all first and second-class honours.
The indiscriminate 1918–1919 Influenza, (often called the Spanish Flu) took its toll on campus. In the autumn of 1918, classes were cancelled for almost two months and Pembina Hall was turned into an emergency isolation hospital.
In 1919, in an effort to help returning veterans catch up on their studies, the University of Alberta began offering summer school.
For a while, a slight collision developed between returning students who had interrupted their studies and their fresh-eyed, younger counterparts who had not seen action. With time and distance, life on campus went on.