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Looking back on convocation half a century ago

By Dale Johnson Posted: June 7, 2016 4:00 p.m.

At the second annual convocation ceremony in Regina, Principal Dr. W. A. Riddell presents the University Prize in Arts to Alan Leonard Wight who received a Bachelor of Arts degree at Darke Hall on May 14, 1966.
At the second annual convocation ceremony in Regina, Principal Dr. W. A. Riddell presents the University Prize in Arts to Alan Leonard Wight who received a Bachelor of Arts degree at Darke Hall on May 14, 1966. Photo: U of R Archives, photographer Don Webb

The most recent University of Regina’s spring convocation was the largest ever, with 2,162 students graduating during the first three days of June 2016. That’s more than a tenfold increase in the number of graduates from 50 years ago, when the ceremony in Regina became a tradition instead of a novelty.

The second convocation ceremony was held in Regina in May 1966. The previous year convocation was held for the first time in Regina; before then, people who studied at Regina College (later known as  Regina Campus) could graduate with certificates and diplomas – but they had to go to the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon (or elsewhere) to earn degrees. Now, people could complete their studies and be awarded their degrees right in Regina. This was an important milestone in the development that led to the creation of the University of Regina in 1974.

The inaugural convocation in Regina in 1965 broke new ground and was something that had never happened in Regina.

In 1966, convocation at Darke Hall in Regina demonstrated that the ceremony was no longer a novelty, but an annual event in Regina.

In all, 181 degrees were conferred at Spring Convocation in 1966 – more than double the 74 degrees that were awarded the previous year. Degrees were awarded for bachelor and master of arts, bachelor of education and bachelor of music.

These newest graduates had done most of their studying at the College Avenue Campus; the “new” campus – now known as the main campus of the University of Regina – had just opened in the fall of 1965.

Honorary degree recipients were Dr. Albert W. Trueman, dean of University College at the University of Western Ontario in London, and Lois Marshall, an internationally-recognized Canadian soprano.

At that second convocation, the Governor-General’s Medal was awarded for the first time at Regina Campus, and went to the most distinguished graduate receiving a first degree.

The award was presented to Russell Wellington Waller. He had moved from Toronto to Regina four years earlier, and completed high school courses at Regina Campus at the age of 40. Then he earned a BA in English. Before coming to Regina, Waller has worked for six years as a TV set designer for CBC, three years as stage manager for Hart House Theatre at the University of Toronto, and five years as an actor at Stratford and in summer stock.  

An editorial in the Regina Leader-Post newspaper said: “Today’s memorable event – the second Convocation of the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus – presents evidence of the progress of the province’s second institution of higher learning...Despite its youthfulness, the Regina institution’s enrolment is about 2,300, a sizeable campus in accordance with standards which prevailed only a few decades ago. However, this is only an early point in the expected mercurial rise in enrolment to 6,700 in 1970, and 8,000 in 1972.”

Since then, Regina Campus became an independent institution in 1974, and enrolment has grown to over 14,000. And the roots of the U of R, the buildings on College Avenue that opened more than 100 years ago - including Darke Hall where convocation was held 50 years ago – now are being updated and refurbished in order to educate people and serve the community as the University of Regina continues to meet the changing needs of society.

Related stories:

University celebrating its largest spring Convocation

Changes and traditions of 50 years of convocation

Half a century of granting degrees