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Arts and Science General Information History of the University


History of the University

Queen’s University was established on October 16, 1841 by a royal charter issued by Queen Victoria. Its founders modelled the new college on the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Queen’s, like them, was given a governing structure built around a Board of Trustees, a Principal, and a Senate. Classes began on March 7 1842, when 'Queen’s College at Kingston' opened in a small wood-frame house on the edge of the city with two professors and 13 students.

For its first 11 years the school had no home. It moved from house to house in Kingston, finally settling in Summerhill, a spacious limestone residence which still stands at the heart of the main campus. Financial support came at first from the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, the Canadian government, and private citizens. But this support was meagre and barely kept the college afloat. In 1867 and 1868 the college faced ruin when the government withdrew its funding and a commercial bank collapsed, a disaster which cost Queen’s two-thirds of its endowment. Principal William Snodgrass and other dedicated officials narrowly rescued the college with a desperate fundraising campaign across Canada.

Yet Queen’s future remained insecure. On the brink of closing in the mid-1880s, the university was rescued by the bequest of alumnus Robert Sutherland. The first student and graduate of colour, who became British North America’s first known black lawyer, Sutherland left his entire estate to Queen’s when he died in1878.

The Faculty of Medicine was formed in 1854 and in 1869 Queen’s became the first university west of the Maritimes to admit women to classes. By the mid-1870s enrolment had grown from 15 to more than 100 students.

But it was not until the principalship of the Rev. George Munro Grant (1877-1902) that Queen’s achieved a position as one of Canada’s premier universities. Deeply religious and nationalistic, Grant worked to produce graduates who would build the growing country in a spirit of dedicated service rather than material gain. By the end of his 25-year term the college had more than tripled its size, gained a measure of financial security, and charted a course towards greater academic diversity. In 1893 Queen’s established the Ontario School of Mining and Agriculture, forerunner of today’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. In the 1880s Queen’s pioneered correspondence education in North America and a graduate studies program was launched in 1889.

Principal Grant died in 1902 and was succeeded by the Rev. Daniel Miner Gordon. The most important development in Gordon’s term came in 1912, when Queen’s separated from the Presbyterian Church – a move which brought it more in touch with an increasingly secular age. It was then that the college officially changed its name to 'Queen’s University at Kingston'. Gordon retired because of failing health in 1916, two years into the First World War.

The war had a dramatic impact on Queen’s, where students were thrown into military training. Grant Hall – an assembly and concert hall built in 1905 and named after the former Principal – was transformed into an army hospital. The enlistment of students, staff, and faculty caused enrolment to plummet, leaving the university on the edge of bankruptcy.

The 1918 armistice and a $1,000,000 fundraising drive led by the new Principal, Rev. Bruce Taylor, soon put the university back on a course of modest progress and innovation. Queen’s introduced the first commerce courses in Canada in 1918. Old Richardson Stadium was built in 1920; Douglas library in 1924; and Ban Righ – Queen’s oldest existing student residence –in 1925. The early 1920s were also the golden age of Queen’s football. Queen’s won three consecutive Grey Cups in 1922, 1923 and 1924.

The onset of the Depression in 1929 brought progress at Queen’s to a virtual halt, despite the notorious thrift of its administration. Sir William Hamilton Fyfe, Principal from 1930, built a slender base at Queen’s for music and the fine arts, but could do little else in the straitened circumstances of the decade. He handed the reins of the university to Principal Robert Wallace in 1936.

The Second World War thrust Queen’s back into a world of military discipline and reduced expectations. Still, the university did not suffer as it had in the previous war, and was able to establish the School of Nursing in 1941.

The end of the war in 1945 ushered in the greatest period of growth in Queen’s history. Between 1945 and Wallace’s retirement in 1951, it opened the School of Physical and Health Education and a new building for Mechanical Engineering. After fire swept through the old Students’ Memorial Union in 1947, the university built a new student centre, known today as the John Deutsch University Centre. Additional student life and athletic facilities, as well as a new building to house the re-named School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, are now located in the Queen’s Centre, which opened in January 2010.

In the 1950s, the pace of growth quickened, propelled by the expanding postwar economy and the first stirrings of the demographic boom that peaked in the 1960s. During the principalship of William Mackintosh (1951-1961) enrolment increased from just over 2000 students to more than 3000. The university embarked on an ambitious building program, constructing five student residences in less than 10 years. In 1956, Agnes Etherington – widow of a former dean of medicine – donated her large Georgian-style house on University Avenue to Queen’s for the 'furthering of art and music'. Named in her honour, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre has since grown into one of Canada’s leading art galleries. Following the reorganization of legal education in Ontario in the mid-1950s, Queen’s Faculty of Law opened in 1957 in the newly-built John A. Macdonald Hall. Other major additions to Queen’s in the 1950s were the construction of Richardson Hall to house Queen’s administrative offices, and Dunning Hall.

The terms of Principals James Corry (1961-1968) and John Deutsch (1968-1974) saw continued growth. With baby boomers knocking at the door and public funding flowing generously, Queen’s – like most other Canadian universities – more than tripled its enrolment and greatly expanded its faculty, staff, and facilities. By the mid-1970s, the number of full-time students had reached 10,000. Among the new facilities were three more residences and separate buildings for the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics, Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy, Biology and Psychology, and the School of Computing, and for the Social Sciences and the Humanities. The period also saw the establishment at Queen’s of Schools of Music, Public Administration (now part of Policy Studies), Rehabilitation Therapy, and Urban and Regional Planning.

The biggest development was the establishment of the Faculty of Education in 1968 on land about a kilometre west of the university. This was the beginning of Queen’s west campus, which also holds several residences and Queen’s football stadium.

Principal Deutsch put a brake on enrolment – with a cap of 10,000 full-time students – to safeguard the traditional personal character of education at Queen’s. During the 1990’s the appropriate balance was found at a slightly higher enrolment, reaching about 13,000 full-time students. The decision to restrict growth, as well as a sharp reduction in public funding to universities, made the decade between 1974 and 1984, in the words of Principal Ronald Watts, one of 'constraint, consolidation, and constructive change'. In 1978, work was finished on Botterell Hall, a nine-storey medical sciences and library building next to Kingston General Hospital. With soaring applications, Queen’s developed what are now the highest undergraduate admission standards in Canada. Graduate studies and research over the decade also increased in both quantity and quality.

Under the leadership of Principal David Smith (1984-1994), Queen’s worked to maintain its high standards. It also sought to build on its roots as a place that welcomes students from all parts of Canadian society and from around the world. The university built a new School of Policy Studies building (which was named in honour of alumnus Robert Sutherland in 2009), a five-storey technology centre (Walter Light Hall) and a $48-million 'library of the 21st century' – Stauffer Library, in the heart of campus. In 1993 alumnus and generous benefactor Alfred Bader presented the university with historic Herstmonceux Estate, complete with a 15th-century moated castle, which now serves as the Bader International Study Centre.

Principal Smith was succeeded by William Leggett, a former Vice-Principal at McGill University, who served as Principal of Queen’s from 1994 until 2004. Under his tenure the university undertook the largest capital expansion and renovation phase in its history. New facilities included: Chernoff Hall, the new home of the Department of Chemistry; Beamish-Munro Hall, built to house the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s Integrated Learning Centre; Goodes Hall, new home to the School of Business in the renovated and expanded Victoria School; and the Cancer Research Institute. Two new student residences on the lower campus – Leggett Hall and Watts Hall – opened in September 2003.

In 1995, Principal Leggett announced three new Vice-Principal portfolios: Academic, Operations and Finance and Research. As well, the position of Dean of Student Affairs was created to serve the needs of the student population.

Severe cuts in base funding from the provincial government starting in the late 1990s created significant funding challenges, which were, partially addressed through the work of the Office of Advancement. The Campaign for Queen’s was officially launched in October 2000 with an ambitious goal of $200 million for a range of priorities, from new facilities to faculty recruitment, student aid and curriculum enhancements. When the Campaign closed in May 2003, $261 million had been raised.

In 2004, Karen Hitchcock, a former President of the University of Albany, succeeded Principal Leggett. Early in her term, Principal Hitchcock struck the Principal’s Task Force on Community Relations. Consulting closely with the community, students, the city of Kingston, and the Kingston police, the task force examined the whole suite of issues related to Queen’s students living in the neighbourhoods close to the University. Its recommendations, adopted in May of 2005, provided a framework for positive community relations.

Under Principal Hitchcock, Queen’s made important changes in the area of human resources management at a time when competition for the best faculty and staff intensified. The most important of these was the creation of the position of Vice-Principal (Human Resources) to oversee all human resource services and functions at Queen’s.

With assistance from the provincial government, the University completed an agreement with Novelis Inc. to acquire 49 acres of land adjacent to the company’s research and development centre at the corner of Princess and Concession Streets. The new facility, known as Innovation Park at Queen’s University, was officially opened in the summer of 2008 and brings academic and industry researchers together to work in fields such as alternative energy and environmental technologies, with a focus on the bioeconomy and advanced materials research.

Principal Hitchcock resigned in April 2008 and was replaced by Tom Williams, a specialist in educational administration and a Professor Emeritus in the School of Policy Studies and the Faculty of Education. Over his 32-year career at Queen’s, Williams performed many key leadership roles including Acting Director of the School of Policy Studies, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Vice-Principal (Operations and University Finance), Vice-Principal (Institutional Relations),and honorary president of the Queen’s student government, the Alma Mater Society.

As chair of the Building Committee for the University's Performing Arts Centre, Williams championed and helped lay the groundwork for a future waterfront arts campus that will bring together community and student performance, education, creativity and training. The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, to include a 560-seat, acoustically superior concert hall, is funded by governments and private donation, including a generous gift from Queen’s benefactors Alfred and Isabel Bader.

Construction was also begun on a home for the School of Medicine, a state-of-the-art complex that will allow further expansion of its medical programs to provide the region, province and country with greater access to doctors.

Central issues during Principal Williams’ term of office included enhancing relations with governments at all levels, tackling the ongoing financial challenges facing Queen’s and many of its peers in Ontario, and community-building on and off campus.

Principal Williams was succeeded by Daniel Woolf in September 2009. The third alumnus in 168 years to head the University, Principal Woolf is an historian who has returned to his alma mater from the University of Alberta, where he had served as Dean, Faculty of Arts, and Professor, Department of History and Classics since 2002.

A specialist in early modern British cultural history and in the history of historical thought and writing, Principal Woolf continues to supervise graduate students and participates on a part-time basis in undergraduate teaching.

In January 2010, Principal Woolf released a vision document to launch the University's academic planning process. The document raises a number of issues for discussion, framed within the major question that forms its title, 'Where Next?'. The academic plan, incorporating ideas and input from the university community, will be finalized by the end of the year, and will drive all University decision-making.

Arts and Science General Information History of the University
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