National Recognition for Founder of Brandon University

January 7, 2015

BRANDON, MB – One of the founders of Brandon University is celebrated in the newest volume of the prestigious Dictionary of Canadian Biography, an award-winning database containing biographies of significant national figures.

SJ McKee, circa 1910 (web)

SJ McKee, circa 1910

Samuel James McKee was an educator and early settler of the Canadian west, moving from Ontario to Rapid City, MB, in 1882, and to Brandon in 1890 where he opened Brandon Academy. The school offered classes in English, shorthand, typewriting, music, drawing, and painting, and readied candidates for examinations for teachers’ certificates or admission to the University of Manitoba. In the summer of 1899, Brandon College (now Brandon University) was established on the foundation prepared by McKee.

“Without McKee, there would be no Brandon College or Brandon University,” says historian Tom Mitchell, Brandon University Archivist Emeritus and co-writer of the McKee biography. “His listing in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography provides recognition of the importance of McKee and Brandon College to the history of the prairie west.”

Brandon College, 1901 (photo credit William Martel, Lawrence Stuckey Collection, S.J McKee Archives)

Brandon College, 1901 (photo credit William Martel, Lawrence Stuckey Collection, S.J McKee Archives)

Brandon College opened in October, 1899, with 110 students, the first permanent post-secondary institution west of Winnipeg. McKee was professor of philosophy and de facto vice-principal.

“Every student who has passed through the College and University owes thanks to S.J. McKee,” says Dr. Heather Duncan, Acting Vice-President (Academic and Provost), “and his dedication to the advancement of education continues to this day in the work of our faculty and staff. It’s impossible to imagine Brandon or the world without the contributions made by the hundreds of thousands of BU students who first found opportunity here.”

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography has won many prizes, including the 2012 Governor General’s Award for Popular History, and has been recognized at home and abroad as a “masterpiece.” To view the McKee biography, please visit

Brandon University, founded in 1899, promotes excellence in teaching, research, and scholarship; educating students so that they can make a meaningful difference as engaged citizens and leaders.


For more information, please contact:

Tom Mitchell
University Archivist Emeritus

Glen Kirby
Communications Officer