History of Brandon University


The University is a co-educational, non-denominational, government-supported institution within the Province of Manitoba. It is a member of Universities Canada.

The Foundations

The Baptist Home Mission first sent missionaries to southwestern Manitoba in 1869 and settlers began to pour into the area after 1871. Both settlers and missionaries soon saw a need for a denominational college for Manitoba youth and several attempts to found a college were made.

In 1880 Dr. John Crawford and Rev. G. B. Davis opened Prairie College in Rapid City, 20 miles north of Brandon. The College failed and Rev. Davis founded a small academy in Rapid City which was subsequently taken over by his brother-in-law, Prof. S. J. McKee. McKee’s Academy was moved to Brandon in 1890 following the projection of the CPR mainline through the Assiniboine Valley, which resulted in the marked growth of the city of Brandon.

Brandon College

As early as 1885 the Baptist Convention of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories responded to this need. In 1898 a Toronto industrialist, Mr. William Davies, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Emily Davies, pledged $25,000 to be used to establish a Baptist College in Brandon.

Plans moved ahead rapidly. The Convention appointed Dr. A. P. McDiarmid as principal of Brandon College in 1899. Prof. McKee’s Academy was merged into the new institution and the quarters of the Academy in the Stewart Block on Rosser Avenue at Ninth Street continued to be used. On July 13, 1900, Mrs. Davies laid the cornerstone of the first new building located at the corner of Eighteenth Street and Lorne Avenue, part of the present campus. The Original Building, as it is now called, is joined to Clark Hall, built for women in 1906 and named after Dr. W. S. Clark, the principal donor. These now serve as the Arts and administration buildings of Brandon University.

Brandon College was a liberal arts college offering some work in theology, a high school department, and a commercial department. A school of music was added in 1906. During the college’s affiliation with McMaster University, 1911-1938, the School of Music graduate diplomas in voice and piano attained national reputation. Following affiliation with the University of Manitoba in 1938, music courses as credit to B.A. and B.Sc. degrees were added. Brandon College offered the first B. Mus. program in Manitoba in 1963. The School of Music includes one of the few conservatory departments in Canada and offers private tutoring of high quality.

More than 200 Brandon College students served in the First World War. The college sent a platoon with the Western Universities Battalion to France in 1916 and class enrollments dwindled as students joined the services during that year until not a single male was enrolled in the freshman class.

In 1922 the Science Building was opened, but an economic slump kept the building from being completed according to original specifications. The Bachelor of Science degree was added in 1939.

Commercial courses were discontinued in 1922, and the theology department was replaced by the inclusion of religious studies in the arts curriculum in 1928. In 1932, the Grade 9, 10 and 11 work of the academy, which had formed part of the college, was discontinued. Grade 12 Department of Education courses were introduced and continued until 1955.

In 1938 the Baptist Union of Western Canada found that it was no longer able to support Brandon College. An exceptional display of interest, hard work and generosity on the part of citizens of western Manitoba kept the college open. Brandon College became a non-denominational corporation in that year, ending its affiliation with McMaster University and joining the University of Manitoba as an affiliated college. Four sources of revenue allowed the work of the college to be continued: public subscription; an endowment (which became a foundation in 1945) by Dr. A. E. McKenzie, owner of a Brandon seed firm; a tax levy from the city of Brandon and an annual grant from the provincial government. Support from each of these has continued, but changed in proportion over the years.

The C.O.T.C. program which had been dropped after the First World War was revived to meet the challenge of World War II and 234 Brandon College students served in Canada’s armed forces during 1939-45. Enrollment was cut sharply but new bursaries and scholarships were introduced, and many students worked their way through Brandon College during this period. At this point, there were 14 faculty members and about 100 students. During the late 1940’s, the social sciences were introduced at Brandon College. Training for high school teachers was added in 1952 and expanded to include training for elementary teachers in 1955. The Bachelor of Teaching program was added in 1969 and the first graduates of the program received their degrees in 1971. In the late 1950’s, a national program of university and college expansion gave rise to a sharply increased growth at Brandon College in numbers of both students and faculty and the building of new facilities. The Arts and Library Building, later named the A. E. McKenzie Building, in honour of a chief benefactor of the college, and the J. R. C. Evans Lecture Theatre, named in honour of former Brandon College president Dr. J. R. C. Evans, were officially opened in 1961.

In 1962 the steam plant, Darrach Hall (Men’s Residence), and the dining hall were completed. Added in 1963 were the Music Building and Flora Cowan Hall (Women’s Residence). The Brandon University Gymnasium was opened in 1965.

Brandon University

Brandon University received its charter on June 5, 1967, on the occasion of the visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra and the Honourable Angus Ogilvie.

The Education Building was constructed in 1967, and the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium in 1969. A 10-storey, high-rise residence, McMaster Hall, for men and women, was opened in the fall of 1971. The Jeff Umphrey Memorial Centre for Mental Retardation opened in the fall of 1971 and housed a bookstore, bank and a day care centre, as well as the research centre on mental health.

The J. R. Brodie Science Centre was opened officially in May1972, although classes were held there during the 1971-72 school year. It has modern facilities for the departments of applied disaster and emergency studies, botany, chemistry, environmental science, geology, geography, mathematics and computer science, physics, psychology, and zoology.

In early 1980 the Master of Music Degree Program was approved, and in September 1980 the Applied Program commenced. The Master of Music (Education) commenced in September 1981.

In November 1983 a sod-turning ceremony was held initiating the beginning of the new Music Building erected to the south of the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium and west of the Arts and Library Building. In October 1984 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially named the structure the Queen Elizabeth II Music Building. Members of the Music Faculty moved into the new building during the summer of 1985 and classes were held there in Fall, 1985.

In September 1986 classes commenced in the Department of Nursing and Health Studies program with 2-Year Post-Diploma Baccalaureate Degrees in Nursing and Mental Health. In 1990 the University introduced a major in Business Administration in the Faculty of Arts. Brandon University received its second master’s program when the Master of Education was approved in 1990. In

1991 a minor in Women’s Studies was approved in the Faculty of Arts. In 1993, a minor in Aboriginal Art was approved. In September 1996, the 4-Year Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing was offered for the first time.

Beginning in the early fall of 1996, the renovation and reconstruction of Clark Hall and the Original Building with the retention of the original facade was initiated. This historic project was completed in the Spring of 1997. Faculty and administration occupy the new structure, and classes are being held in the new large classrooms in the renovated Clark Hall and Original Building.

In 1997, Brandon University established the School of Health Studies, the home of the post-diploma nursing and mental health programs and the B.Sc.in Psychiatric Nursing, and first offered the 4-Year Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

The Bachelor of First Nations and Aboriginal Counselling and the Master of Rural Development degree programs were instituted in 1998, followed by the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies in 2001. Also in 2001, a new Distributed Major in Science, designed for students who plan to teach in the secondary schools, was introduced.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts was offered for the first time in 2003. In 2004 the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science was first offered.

In 2005 the Bachelor of Nursing was offered for the first time. The Liberal Arts Distributed Major & Interdisciplinary Studies Major was offered for the first time in 2006.

In 2007 the Bachelor of Physical Education Studies degree and the Bachelor of Arts 4-Year Gender & Women’s Studies major were offered for the first time.

In 2009 the Faculty of Arts 4-Year Drawing major, 3-Year Drawing minor, and 3-Year Art and Visual Culture minor offered for the first time.

In 2010  the Master of Psychiatric Nursing program was established.

The Healthy Living Centre was opened in 2012.

In 2013 the Faculty of Arts major in Native Studies (Clinical Counselling) offered for the first time.

In 2014 the Master of Science (Environmental & Life Science) degree is offered for the first time.