September 1974: The Pierre Trudeau
Liberals were basking in their recent Canadian election victory. Richard
Nixon had resigned as U.S. president just weeks earlier. Jimmy Connors
and Chris Evert were dominating the tennis world and social pages.
Roman Polanski’s Chinatown was in theatres and Andy Kim’s
Rock Me Gently on the airwaves.
And thousands of Montreal university students found themselves in a new home. The urban Sir George Williams University and the Jesuit Loyola College officially merged into Concordia University on August 24, 1974. Within two weeks, students were taking their first classes at the newly christened school on two campuses.
In the 30 years since, the 100,000-plus students who have passed through its doors certainly recognize Concordia’s distinct character. Something — some things — make it like no other university in Canada.
In the following pages we look at 30 (or so) of those things — rather than focusing on the outstanding programs, research, professors and staff of the university, we highlight the extracurricular standouts of Concordia of the past 30 years. The list was compiled with the help of several Concordia staff, faculty, students and alumni, is in no specific order and is certainly not definitive.
But hopefully it’ll be a fun read.
1. Concordia memories
Within the following pages are some Concordia memories
and observations from Concordia alumni and staff.
“One Christmas someone decorated the little quad in the centre of Hingston Hall with a whole family of lit plastic snowmen and snowwomen. The industrious resident was so proud of his efforts that he told everyone he had done it. Meanwhile, a friend who also worked at Loyola and lived nearby told me that during the night someone had stolen her family of plastic snowmen right from her front yard! The resident was so busted. He apologized to my friend, of course, and did chores for her for the rest of the year.”
— Nancy Stewart,
Faculty Personnel Coordinator, JMSB
“Before the VA Building, the Faculty of Fine Arts used to be on the fifth floor of the Hall Building, a very close and intimate community. We all wore our art clothes — paint-splattered smocks — and were brought together by our common poverty and passion for creating art. We often had nude models for our life-drawing classes, and the engineering students were always very excited to come down and peek into the classroom windows. We put up wooden boards, but they still tried to worm a hole to look through.”
— Iris Biteen, BFA 77
2. Concordia Shuffle
One bonus of having two campuses 6.5 km apart is
that it’s the perfect distance for a nice stroll — especially
if it’s to raise money for student scholarships.
The annual Concordia Shuffle ( shuffle.concordia.ca), begun in 1990, draws about 400 Concordia staff, faculty, students, alumni and friends each fall for a walkathon from the Sir George Williams Campus to the Loyola Campus and has raised nearly $600,000 for much-needed scholarships in its 14 years. Furthermore, it’s an event that brings together all of the Concordia community for goodwill.
3. Oscar Peterson Concert Hall
Born in Montreal’s Little Burgundy district,
for 20 years Oscar Peterson lived just a few blocks from Loyola. Although
he’s since moved to Toronto, Concordia honoured the jazz piano
giant by naming its music venue the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall (
oscar.concordia.ca) in 1999.
The 570-seat hall was built in 1990 and boasts a Japanese-style design that incorporates birch planks and a hardwood stage, excellent sight lines and ideal sound. That makes it one of the outstanding musical venues in Montreal’s west end — and a fitting tribute to Oscar Peterson himself.
4. Student fashion
Bellbottoms are back in style . . . no, they’re
out . . . now they’re back. Who can keep up? The only sure thing
about fashion is that by the time you read about it in the newspaper,
it’s already yesterday’s news. But the best way to see
what’s really in style is to visit campus. Or look back at the
campus style of past years to see what was in vogue.
Concordia students have their own fashion sense, ever changing.
5. Office for Students with Disabilities
In 1980, there were only a handful of students with disabilities at Concordia when it established its Services for Disabled Students — now called the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) — making it one of the first universities in Canada to launch such an initiative. Today there are more than 500.
The OSD (advocacy.concordia.ca/disabilities) provides academic and support services for students with mobility, visual and hearing impairments, and with learning disabilities and health-related difficulties. Among the services are academic advising, volunteer reader services, classroom note takers, and oral and sign interpreters for the hearing impaired. Concordia’s shuttle buses can accommodate wheelchairs, while accessibility to buildings and classrooms remains a priority.
So too does sensitizing the university community to the needs of students with certain challenges. The OSD’s ultimate goal is to provide all students not just with access to facilities but with access to learning.
6. Sir George Williams University legacy
According to Maclean’s Guide to Canadian
Universities 2004, 38 per cent of Concordia’s 29,000 students
are part-time — the largest proportion for any English Canadian
university of its size, clearly one of the legacies of Sir George
While that role is certainly not the only one bequeathed to Concordia by Sir George — others include an emphasis on teaching the “whole person” and an accent on teaching — undoubtedly one of Concordia’s most striking features is its accessibility and flexibility. The university continues to attract people who wish to work by day and get a university education at night, mature students returning to complete their studies, immigrants or first-generation Canadians who might not otherwise have entrée to university, or young students who need to work their way through school.
And for that they can thank the philosophy of SGW.
More Things We Love About Concordia