One of Canada’s most famous families helped establish Regina College

By Dale Johnson Posted: July 5, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Right Honourable Vincent Massey, 18th Governor General of Canada on his 70th birthday. His support of Regina College was a big reason it was built.
Right Honourable Vincent Massey, 18th Governor General of Canada on his 70th birthday. His support of Regina College was a big reason it was built. Photo courtesy of Andrews-Newton Photographers Fonds / City of Ottawa Archives / MG393-AN-048470-002.

A huge gift from one of Canada’s richest and most influential families in Toronto was a big reason why Regina College was created.

When people in Regina were working to set up Regina College, a gift from the Massey family of Toronto helped to get the project off the ground.

A headline in the Regina Leader newspaper on Monday, March 7, 1910 said: “MASSEY ESTATE GIVES $100,000 TOWARDS METHODIST COLLEGE IN REGINA.”

The gift of $100,000 was about one-third of the total money raised. When inflation is taken into account, $100,000 in 1910 is equivalent to about $2.1 million today.

There were several reasons why a Toronto-based farm equipment manufacturer would make a donation to a fledgling college thousands of kilometres away.

Massey Manufacturing (later Massey-Harris and then Massey-Ferguson) began in 1847 and grew dramatically in Canada’s early years. When the west was opened up, there was a huge new market for its farm equipment. Massey established an immense warehouse in Regina in 1903, when special freight rates were allowed on farm implements. That’s when Massey, and other firms, built warehouses in Regina. There were hundreds of sales agencies across the province, and by 1906 about $5 million worth of farm equipment was shipped out of Regina, making the city the largest farm implement distribution centre in the world. So Massey really owed much of its success to the farmers of Saskatchewan who bought their products.

As well, the wealthy Massey family had a history of contributing to the fields of arts and education, including Hart House at the University of Toronto; Massey College at the U of T; and Massey Hall, a performing arts centre in Toronto.

And the Masseys were prominent Toronto Methodists – and Regina College was started as a Methodist college.

So contributing financially to a new college in a strong market was a logical choice.

But the Massey family didn’t only contribute financially.

Vincent Massey, who was president of the family firm until 1925 when he resigned to run for elected office, served on the board of governors of Regina College. He also helped to design the crest for Regina College.

And his connections to Regina were strengthened in 1914 and he was commissioned as an officer for Military District No. 12, headquartered in Regina.

He also visited Regina after he was appointed the first Governor General to be born in Canada. He served from 1952 to 1959.

Governor General Vincent Massey unveiled an elaborate stained-glass window over the entry doors of the Royal Canadian Legion Memorial Hall on Cornwall Street in 1952.

And as Governor General, he officially dedicated the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History – now the Royal Saskatchewan Museum – at the opening in 1955. This museum is just west of Regina College – now the College Avenue Campus – on College Avenue.

Massey Road in south Regina is named after Vincent Massey. And the Massey Lecture series, created in 1961 to honour Vincent Massey, was held at the University of Regina in 2010 when author and artist Douglas Coupland delivered a presentation.

And the connection with the community all began when the prominent Toronto family decided to make a contribution to help make dreams of pioneers a reality in establishing Regina College.

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