The University of Victoria (British Columbia) came into being on July 1, 1963, but it had a prior tradition as Victoria College with sixty years of distinguished teaching at the University level. These sixty years may be viewed conveniently in three distinct stages.
Between the years 1903 and 1915, Victoria College was affiliated with McGill University and offered first and second year McGill courses in Arts and Sciences. Victoria College began as an extension of Victoria High School and was administered locally by the Victoria School Board. Both institutions were under the direction of a single Principal: E.B. Paul (1903-1908); and S.J. Willis (1908-1915). During this period classes were held in the tiny wooden annex known to students as the "Barn" or "Chickenhouse". The College moved to the top floor of the new Victoria High School building for the 1914-15 session. The opening in 1915 of the University of British Columbia, established by Act of Legislature in 1908, obliged Victoria College to suspend operations in higher education. From 1915-1920 no college courses were given in Victoria.
In the autumn of 1920, as a result of local demands, the College began the second stage of its development, reborn in affiliation with the University of British Columbia. Though still administered by the Victoria School Board, the College was now completely separated from Victoria High School. In September of 1921 Victoria College began its quarter century occupancy of the magnificent Dunsmuir mansion known as Craigdarroch Castle. Through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression and World War II, Principals E.B. Paul and P.H. Elliot and their staff maintained high standards in teaching first and second-year Arts and Science courses.
The final stage, between the years 1945 and 1965, saw the transition from two-year college to university, under Principals J.M. Ewing and W.H. Hickman. During this period the College was governed by the Victoria College Council which was representative of the parent University of British Columbia, the Greater Victoria School Board, and the provincial Department of Education. The return of World War Two veterans in 1945-1946 pushed college enrollment over 600. Students held a public demonstration on October 10, 1946 to protest dangerous overcrowding and demand new accommodations. Protests were successful and in 1946 the College moved from Craigdarroch to the Lansdowne campus of the Provincial Normal School. The Normal School, itself an institution with a long and honourable history, joined Victoria College in 1956 as its Faculty of Education.
Late in this transitional period (through the cooperation of the Department of National Defence and the Hudson's Bay Company) the 284 (now 385) acre campus at Gordon Head was acquired. Academic expansion was rapid after 1956. In 1961 the College, still in affiliation with U.B.C. awarded its first bachelor's degrees. The transition was complete when on July 1, 1963 Victoria College became the degree granting University of Victoria on its new Gordon Head campus.
Many of Victoria College's graduates went on to become influential members of the community. Of note among celebrated alumni are painter Jack Shadbolt (1925-27), writer Pierre Berton (1937-39) and Haida artist Bill Reid (1938-40).
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