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Algonquin College launches its 50th anniversary

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

 

Fifty years ago, Premier John Robarts agreed to add a new institution for post-secondary learning to Ontario's system of public colleges. With his stroke of the pen, Algonquin College was born.

The college's Pembroke Waterfront Campus launched the silver anniversary with ceremonies Thursday at the Champlain Trail Museum with faculty past and present coming together to rekindle fond memories and take stock of what has been a remarkable five decades.

Although Algonquin's initial footprint was a college on Woodroffe Avenue in Ottawa, it rapidly grew to regional campuses Hawkesbury, Perth, Carleton Place, Renfrew and here in Pembroke. As one of Ontario's largest community colleges, Algonquin has produced 170,000 graduates who have gone on to make substantial contributions to not only their community but the nation.

“Our graduates are making a meaningful contribution to society,” said Pembroke Campus dean Karen Davies. “Whether it is one of our Nursing graduates helping to deliver a baby at the Pembroke Regional Hospital or a Forestry Technician graduate fighting a forest fire in northern Ontario, our alumni are sprinkled across Canada.”

The Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology were established in 1965. Led by Mayor Bill Kutschke, the town council of the day vigorously lobbied the province for a technical college. At first, students attended classes at Calvin United Church and then the former Champlain High School. Then on March 20, 1969, Kutschke and Renfrew North MPP Maurice Hamilton cut the ribbon on a new facility at the old Maple Dairy on Pembroke Street East. From a modest enrollment of 16 in 1968 to nearly 1,000 in 2016, the Pembroke campus has become a major contributor to the city's, as well as Renfrew County's economic prosperity.

“Now, more than ever, the college is critical to the future well-being of our region as we face labour market challenges brought on by an aging population,” said Mayor Mike LeMay. “The infusion of young people into our community as a result of the college being here is vital and has created significant economic spinoffs for our city.”

As part of the 50th anniversary commemoration, the campus has joined with the Champlain Trail Museum who have agreed to display many of the college's achives for the remainder of this year. The exhibit includes historical documents, photographs and media clippings that tell the story of the campus' five decades.

“The college has changed a lot over the past 50 years,” said Claude Brule, vice-president of academics. “New buildings, such as the Waterfront Campus here in Pembroke, have allowed us to provide state-of-the-art facilities for our students to learn in. Unique programs like Outdoor Adventure have attracted more out-of-town students, leading to record enrolments. We will be nostalgic and celebrate our past, but we will continue to plan for tomorrow. It's in our DNA and it's why Algonquin College has prospered for the past five decades.”

The college is planning more special activities and events. In his remarks, Jay McLaren, representing the Board of Governors, said this will be a time to acknowledge the past, present and future contributions of the dedicated employees of the college and to ensure students continue to be provided with exceptional training.

“Algonquin College truly is a remarkable institution of higher learning,” said McLaren. “Over its 50 years of existence it has had an incredible impact on eastern Ontario, and certainly here in Pembroke where the campus has continually produced highly skilled graduates to support the local and regional labour market needs.”

SChase@postmedia.com