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Higher Education

The University Of Saskatchewan: The Start

Saskatoon Star Phoenix [Saskatoon Daily Star]
July 15, 1926. p.1

"Deo et Patriea" -- "For God and Country." This is the motto of the University of Saskatchewan, displayed prominently by students' class banners, cried by students at mass meetings, at track meets, rugby games, theatre nights -- in fact, whenever University of Saskatchewan students gather, either within University halls, or miles away, along the frontiers of the province, wherever a few students happen to meet. The motto is part of the university "yell."

"Deo et Patriae" has been the guiding slogan of the university since its foundation, and the strength and fervor of that slogan were amply demonstrated during the dark years of the War, when students and professors marched shoulder to shoulder in the grim chaos of Flanders.

Today, long rows of memorial tablets bordering the walls of the College Building, the chief administration building of the institution, add their corroboration to the truth of the historic cry: "For God and Country."

Every tablet bears the name of some university student or member of the staff, who served his God and his Country during the Great War. Each record is set in large letters. Their military decorations are recited. If he was wounded in action, the tablet says so. And many more are the tablets which bear the words "killed" or "dead."


"Deo et Patriae." The slogan ran through the minds of five men who climbed the narrow stairs to the top storey of the Drinkle Building on the evening of September 28, 1909 to meet the arrival of 70 young men and women for the first classes of the University of Saskatchewan.

Four of these five men are still actively associated with the work of the university. The fifth, Professor Baten, has his name inscribed on one of the College Building tablets, and under the name is one all-explaining phrase, "Killed in Action."

The professorial quintette, trudging up the stairs of the Drinkle Building that fall morning 18 years ago included Dr. Walter C. Murray, President of a university which had no students, and in place of its present stately administration and scientific buildings, had only the architect's plans -- a university which was still a dream.

The first college of the several now filling up the university was the College of Arts and Science, and classes in arts and science subjects were held until the spring of 1910, on the top floor of the building, destroyed in January, 1925, by fire.

In 1909 the College of Agriculture came into being, with William J. Rutherford, B.S.A. as Dean and Alexander R. Greig, B.Sc., and John Bracken, B.S.A. as professors.


"John Bracken, B.S.A." as he is cited in the official history of the university is now Hon. John Bracken, Premier of Manitoba. He was carried to the chief executive position in the government of that province in 1922 when the spirit of farmer government swept Manitoba, and the leaderless farmers call upon the principal of Manitoba Agricultural College to form a government. Mr. Bracken at that time had been head of the college for only 2 years having left a professorship in the University of Saskatchewan to accept the principalship of the Manitoba institution.

In 1910 the educational work of the provincial department of agriculture was transferred to the new college and the Saskatchewan College of Agriculture had been launched.


In 1910, to, Sir Wilfird Laurier came west and on July 29 laid the cornerstone for the College Building, the first building of the institution. Classes for the next two years were held in Nutana Collegiate, with 100 students enrolled the second year, and two more professors added to the teaching staff.

The beginning of the fall term of 1912 saw the new buildings ready to receive the students, and for the first time since its establishment of the university was "at home" on its own site.

A brief history of the university is set out, in formal and scholarly language, in the annual calendar of the institution, which states:

"The senate held its first meeting on the eighth of January, 1908, when appointments to the Board of Governors were made, and the policy of the University was discussed. The Board of Governors appointed a President in the following August, and immediately approached the difficult problems of selecting a site and determining the relation of the university to the proposed College of Agriculture."


"After careful inquiry it was unanimously decided by the Senate and the Governors to make provision within the University for instruction in Agriculture. This decision was cordially approved by the Lieutenant-Governor in council at Legislature.

"When this question had been decided, the Governors selected a site for the University of Saskatchewan."

The statements are, of course, correct, and there is no doubt as to their conciseness.

They fail, however, to tell of the continent-wide search by members of the first senate, for a man to be intrusted with the difficult dual role of president of the university and planner of its destinies.

The search is ignored, and no mention is made of the factors leading to the selection of the man to be head of the infant university. The entire story is dismissed in one clause of a sentence: "The Board of Governors appointed a President in the following August."


There is not even mention of that president's name -- Walter Charles Murray, still guiding with a firm hand the destinies of the University of Saskatchewan.

An even more dramatic story is hidden in the simple statement: "The Governors selected a site for the University in Saskatoon."


It was in 1907 that the "University question" aroused the attention of the citizens of every principal city or town in the province.

Only a short time had elapsed since Saskatoon and Regina had waged an almost bitter fight for the provincial capital. And interest ran high as to which of the cities would be selected as the seat of government.

The struggle for the capital was recalled recently by James Clinkskill of Saskatoon, one of the outstanding men of the little group now known as "the pioneers," and for many years a member of the university board of governors.

Speaking of the location of the capital, Mr. Clinkskill said: "Every citizen in Saskatoon used every bit of influence he had over the members of parliament to brink the capital to Saskatoon, and up to the night before the vote was taken we were confident that we had it clinched, but Regina beat us to it."

With the momentous question of the site finally decided, the constitutional machinery of the university came into action. Convocation met and appointed the chancellor and 10 members of the senate.

The senate met early in January, 1908, and appointed members of the board of governors. In August the board appointed the president and 13 months later classes began.


The College of Arts and Science was established in September 1910, and the College of Agriculture not very long after.

Changes occurred in October, 1912, when the university took possession of its new buildings. In the same month the College of Engineering was established, and classes began. A year later the College of Law opened its classes, to be followed within a few months, in January, 1914, by the School of Pharmacy. Three years elapses without the addition of another school or college, until in 1917, the School of Accounting was organized. The Summer School, offering summer tuition in any of the degree courses, as well as special classes for teachers, was established the same year. In 1925 the Pre-Medical School, offering several years' tuition to medical students before they need to enroll in a medical college for their complete instruction, was established. The Pre-Medical School, with a recent appointment to the Anatomy Chair, now offers complete instruction during the first three years of medical course of study.


"How is your university operated? Who are the officials? Is it supported by endowment, or otherwise?" These questions are being constantly asked by visitors to Saskatoon, many of whom have learned to think of a university as an institution dependent on the gifts of philanthropically disposed millionaires.

The government of the University of Saskatchewan is really a quadruple organization.

First there is the university Convocation, or graduates of any British university who had resided three months in the province before the first convocation was held, and since that date all graduates of the university.


The revenue of the University is derived from one third of the succession duties levied upon heirs of estates, one quarter of the Corporation Tax, the legislative grant, fees, gifts and the sale of produce of the university farm.

An annual financial appropriation for the maintenance and operation of the university for the ensuing fiscal year is made each session by the provincial legislature, so that the University of Saskatchewan is essentially a state university, in that it is an integral part of the provincial educational system.

There are no endowments for the general upkeep and operation of the university, although gifts of land and money to establish scholarships and prizes have been made, and are being made each year, while from all over the West donations of specimens and historical objects are made to the university museum. Many large gifts of books have also been made to the university library.

With the exception of a small revenue derived from the nominal tuition fees and the income of the operation of its farm, the university is wholly dependent upon the annual grant of legislature.

The University is situated on the east side of the South Saskatchewan River, opposite the city of Saskatoon. Its site comprises 1,382 acres, with a frontage of over half a mile on the river have been set aside for the campus. A portion of the quarter-section south of the campus is devoted to plot work in Field Husbandry.

The College Building is used for teaching purposes in Arts and Agriculture. It is located in a position convenient to the Agricultural Engineering building, the proposed Horticultural and Dairy Buildings, the stock pavilion and the farm building, so that in time it can be exclusively devoted to the College of Agriculture.


Near the College Buildings are placed the greenhouses, the physics, chemistry and biology laboratories, and the two residences, Saskatchewan Hall and Qu'Appelle Hall, providing accommodation for about 250 students.

The university library and the bacteriology and dairy laboratories, are at present established in the College Building. An arts Building is to be erected.

The engineering laboratory includes machine, forge and woodworking shops. One portion of this building is at present devoted to the department of field husbandry.

The power house is designed to heat, light and supply power for all buildings to be erected now and for several years in the future. The plans will permit expansion at small cost.

The stock pavilion and barns are planned so that expansion will be possible at a comparatively small cost. In like manner, the systems for drainage, for water and heating are being constructed with a view to future growth.


Sites of from three to five acres on the campus will be leased to affiliated colleges at a normal rental, and subject to certain provisions, such as the approval of the board of governors and university architects of the location of the buildings, their style of architecture and the material used in construction. Those sites have already been granted, one to Emmanuel College, one to St.Andrews College and one to City Hospital.

Land donations to the university have been received from Fred Engen, Saskatoon Pioneer, who gave seven lots on the campus front. Mr. Powell, about one acre on the campus front, and 560 acres near Dundurn form the late Joseph Proctor.

In order to preserve the old stone school in Nutana, the first school building erected in Saskatoon, the Daughters of the Empire had the building transferred to the university grounds, where it is used as an archive building.


Admission to the various colleges of the university is accorded to all students who are at least 16 years old and have their matriculation standing from the high schools or collegiates of the province or from other recognized institutions.

In the 17 years of the university's operation, great changes have taken place.

It is a far cry back to the little band of students and professors who assembled in a room on the top storey of the old Drinkle Building in September 1909.

Today the university campus is marked by beautiful, large buildings of grey stone, while the architecture of the various units conforms with that of the ancient buildings of Oxford University. Visitors to the university never fail to comment upon the beauty of the university buildings as compared with the building equipment of other universities.


From a staff of five, the teaching "equipment" of the institution has grown until today some 85 professors and assistant professors are actually engaged in teaching, as well as a considerable number of instructors and demonstrators.

The original 70 students would hardly be noticed today in the total number of 1,350 students who were enrolled during the 1925-26 year in the university. This total included all degree students as well as those registered for short courses, and in all the summer school and junior colleges.