Two years after the province of Saskatchewan was created, the Legislative Assembly passed the University of Saskatchewan Act in 1907. The government of Walter Scott had the vision to create a full University and not just a college when the population of Saskatchewan at that time was merely 250,000. The Premier and the first president of the University, Walter Murray, knew that the province’s population would increase and that this was to be an institution to serve on a large scale. The Act specifically mentioned that the University would be open to women as well as men, and there were two women out of eight in the first graduating class. The board of governors maintained its policy of being a non-denominational University, but remained sensitive to religious interests: theology colleges were therefore welcomed and closely allied to the University. Emmanuel College, under the auspices of the Anglican Church, moved from Prince Albert and became affiliated in 1909; built in 1912–13, Emmanuel College, now known as the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad, was one of the first buildings constructed on the site. In 1912, the Presbyterians formed a college that became known as St. Andrew’s College in 1924; it was taken over by the United Church in 1925. The Lutheran College and Seminary, now known as the Lutheran Theological Seminary, was established in 1920. After a lengthy period of development, the Catholic presence at the University of Saskatchewan became St. Thomas More College in 1936. The most recent affiliation with the University of Saskatchewan was Central Pentecostal College, in 1983.
E.H. Oliver delivered the first class at the University of Saskatchewan in the Drinkle Building in downtown Saskatoon on Wednesday, September 29, 1909. In spring of 1910 construction started on the new campus, and on July 29 of that year Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier laid the cornerstone for the Administration Building. At the laying of the cornerstone, Premier Scott said: “Saskatchewan is essentially an agricultural province… It is in keeping with the character of our province that the main part of the highest institution of learning in the province shall be an agricultural college.” The University of Saskatchewan was actually the first Canadian University to have colleges of Arts and Science, and Agriculture, on the same campus. Based on the principle of “service to the community,” many community-based programs developed out of the extension department of the College of Agriculture, including 4-H clubs, Farm and Home Week, the Homemaker’s Club (Women’s Institute), the Farm Train, the National Farm Radio Forum, and a variety of short courses. Many associate the development of the co-operative movement as an outgrowth of the extension department. As Walter Murray said, “All are greatly benefited by the intercourse and better prepared for service in the state, where the farmer, the doctor, the lawyer, the teacher and the engineer must work together for the public good.” These professions did work together on one campus as the University expanded its offerings and established new colleges.
Over the years, several new colleges were added to the University of Saskatchewan: Engineering, 1912; Law, 1913; Pharmacy, 1914; Commerce, 1917; Medicine, 1926; Education, 1927; Home Economics, 1928 (closed in 1990); Nursing, 1938; Graduate Studies, 1946; Physical Education, 1958; Western College of Veterinary Medicine, 1964; Dentistry, 1965; and Physical Therapy, 1976. Today, the University has thirteen colleges with the largest cross-section of health sciences colleges in the country, and is well known for its scientific discoveries. Scientists at the University have developed new varieties of wheat to combat the early frosts and rust, which are now grown all over the world. A new formula for concrete was developed to increase its strength and resistance to chemical reactions in the soil. A linear accelerator, the forerunner to the Canadian Light Source Syncrotron, was installed at the University to lead the way in nuclear physics research; this is Canada’s only syncrotron, and one of the largest research projects ever undertaken in the country. In 1951, the world’s first non-commercial Cobalt 60 therapy unit, developed at the University for cancer treatment, was opened. Finally, two Nobel Prize winners were affiliated with the scientific community at the University of Saskatchewan: Gerhard Herzberg (1971) and Henry Taube (1981). These are just some examples of the world-recognized achievements of this comparatively young academic institution.
The University of Saskatchewan also has a broad offering in the humanities and fine arts. In 1959 it acquired four Amati instruments (two violins, one cello, and one viola), and in 2003, the president established the University of Saskatchewan Amati Quartet in residence. This is one of only three Amati quartets in the world (the Amati family in Italy made these fine instruments between 1607, for the viola, and 1690, for the cello). The University of Saskatchewan is also home to some of the best athletic teams in Canada and has earned national championships in various sports. The Huskie Athletic program promotes good sportsmanship, athletic excellence, and team spirit on campus. The University is the product of a bold new vision inspired by Walter Scott and Walter Murray. The fieldstone and Tyndall stone buildings are all built in the same architectural style: the look of permanence, tradition and beauty has combined to produce a campus that is reputed to be one of the most attractive in Canada. As the University approaches its 100th anniversary, the present campus and academic offerings adequately reflect the original vision.
Gordon L. Barnhart