April 29, 2016

President Elizabeth Cannon thanks the Calgary community for unwavering support

University celebrates the last 50 years while looking forward to the next 50


Elizabeth Cannon

University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon speaks to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on April 13. Photo by Colleen De Neve

President Elizabeth Cannon speaks to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on April 13.

Colleen De Neve

When we begin a year’s worth of celebrations around the University of Calgary’s 50th anniversary on Friday, we will be honouring our past while priming ourselves for the future. But really, we’ll be celebrating you.

Friday, April 29 marks the day 50 years ago that this university was created. And this university is your university. It exists because of the dedication and vision of generations of Calgarians, both homegrown and transplanted from across Canada and all over the world. We’ve all shared in growing this great city and this great university together.

It’s impossible to imagine our institution evolving into the global intellectual hub it has become without the unwavering support of the community that surrounds and embraces us. More than 100,000 of our alumni — that’s two-thirds of the students we’ve graduated in the past half century — are living and working right here. Our alumni have helped build this city and continue to shape its future.

The earliest roots of the University of Calgary go back a lot further than 50 years, to the Alberta Normal School, which was established in Calgary in 1906 and provided a steady stream of educators for a new province eager to grow and advance quickly. (It would eventually grow to become the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education.) In 1908, when the University of Alberta was founded with a province-wide mandate, Calgary became a satellite campus for the Edmonton-based institution. Over the decades to follow, the Calgary community, students, faculty, staff, alumni and volunteers came together tirelessly to demand an independent university for this city. On April 29, 1966, it finally happened when the University of Calgary (then University of Alberta at Calgary) was granted its autonomy.

Andrew Doucette, director of the University of Alberta in Calgary, takes part in the sod-turning ceremony at the current campus site in November 1958.

Andrew Doucette, director of the University of Alberta in Calgary, at the current campus in 1958.

UARC 92.076-05

Just 4,000 students were enrolled in our first academic year, studying in a small cluster of buildings sitting in a mud field where our main campus now stands (at 24th Avenue and Crowchild Trail N.W.). We now have more than 31,000 students enrolled on five campuses, including a nursing program in Qatar.

When I arrived in Calgary in 1982 from Prince Edward Island, I was looking to further my academic pursuits. I was also on an adventure to what seemed to me like the frontier at the time. Thirty-four years later, I’m still here and that pioneering spirit that I felt in Calgary back then is still driving us forward.

At 50, this university is still considered young. In fact, we’re currently ranked as the top young university in North America. But as we enter our next 50 years, we want to be sure that the rich traditions we have developed don’t hold us back. We want to remain nimble and energetic, reflective of the most enterprising city in Canada.


Students at the University of Alberta in Calgary gather in the library foyer and sing for autonomy in 1963. UARC 7.11 by Calgary Herald

Students at the University of Alberta in Calgary gather in the library foyer and sing for autonomy.

UARC 7.11 by Calgary Herald

I believe anyone who joins us for the many anniversary events planned over the course of the next year will see our commitment to nurturing our students, driving transformational change, innovation and the pursuit of excellence in everything we do. I would encourage all Calgarians to take the opportunity to visit our campuses or connect with us throughout the community as we mark this milestone year.

While we are taking the time to honour the past and the legacy of those who came before us to shape this place, we are also looking forward with great purpose. The future will call for new ideas, new technologies, new skills, new perspectives, new concepts, and new ways of teaching and learning. It will demand a university that can adapt to meet these changing needs and deliver the tangible impact that we need to move society ahead for everyone — a university that will fearlessly tackle humanity’s most pressing issues head-on.

The University of Calgary exists for us, together, to seize these opportunities and make a real difference in the world. You have been with us on this journey from the very beginning, and we look forward to continuing our adventure together over the next 50 years. Thank you.