The first Baptist settlers arrived in southwestern Manitoba in 1871, and soon after, decided they need a denominational college for Manitoba’s youth. After a failed attempt to open Prairie College in Rapid city, Professor S.J. McKee took over the endeavour but sought to open the college in Brandon after the Canadian Pacific Railway had been established through the Assiniboine Valley. At the same time, a Toronto industrialist, Mr. William Davies and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Emily Davies, pledged $25,000 in support of opening a Baptist College in Brandon. The two enterprises were merged into one institution. Headed by the Baptist Convention of Manitoba and the North West Territories, and affiliated with McMaster University, Brandon College was born in 1899, and classes began in the same year. The college focused on liberal arts, offering studies in Theology, and had both a high school department, and a commercial department; the school of music was added in 1906.
Enrolment sharply decreased in 1916, as more than 200 students served in the first world war. Citing financial reasons, the Baptist Church withdrew their support in 1938, and the college became non-denominational. Brandon College established a Bachelor of Science degree in 1939, and went on to offer the first Bachelor of Music program in Manitoba, added in 1963.
Brandon College ended their affiliation with McMaster in 1939, and became instead associated with the University of Manitoba. On June 5th, 1967, Brandon College received its charter and became Brandon University. The occasion coincided with the visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra and the Honourable Angus Ogilvy, while the charter was dated July 1, 1967 to commemorate the centennial of Canada’s confederation.
BU’s Interim President Dr. Steve Robinson reflected on this transition in 2017; “When we were chartered as Brandon University, we took a significant and ambitious step in our continuing growth. It was a period of progress, with new buildings and new programs laying the foundations for today’s success.”
Last year, homecoming weekend welcomed back over 200 alumni from many graduating classes, particularly Brandon College’s last graduating class, the class of 1967. The year honoured the milestone of the 50th anniversary of Brandon University’s charter. This year’s homecoming will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first class of graduates to convocate from the newly-charted Brandon University.
Last year’s 50th anniversary allowed for discussion of BU’s lasting impact on the community; “This goes far beyond the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact produced by BU every year. Research here advances and create new knowledge, creative and scholarly works both delight and inform us all, and our graduates enrich our culture and our communities as engaged citizens with meaningful careers.” Dr. Robinson says, “Brandon University makes a tremendous impact every single day. Our students, faculty, staff and alumni make essential contributions here on campus and to the vibrancy of our communities”.
The Interim President added that, “becoming a chartered university brought with it the benefits of autonomy, allowing us to govern and award our own degrees and to nimbly respond to community needs through research and new programming. It was a time of tremendous change and growth for post-secondary education in Canada, and Brandon University is embracing similar change right now.” With the acquisition of new property downtown, and a new Campus Master Plan, Brandon University will continue to grow and thrive.