First president of U of R Alumni Association reflects on the early days

By Dale Johnson Posted: January 9, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Lydia Bramham helped to get the U of R Alumni Association off the ground.
Lydia Bramham helped to get the U of R Alumni Association off the ground. Photo: U of R Photography

It was the start of a new era on July 1, 1974, when the University of Regina was created.

The origins of the U of R can be traced back to Regina College, which was established in 1911. It later became part of the University of Saskatchewan, and was later known as the Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan.

The creation of the new University of Regina on July 1, 1974, also marked the start of the University of Regina Alumni Association.

The first president of the new U of R Alumni Association, Lydia Bramham, remembers some of the growing pains in the early days.

Bramham studied art history, philosophy and other liberal arts classes at Regina College in the late 1940s.

Then she went to Normal School and was a teacher for several years before returning to Regina Campus and graduating in 1974 with an education degree.

She then became the first president of the new U of R Alumni Association in 1974.

“We were an organization with no money,” she recalls with a laugh.

Unlike a completely new university, the institution had a history of more than 60 years. The first step was to track down graduates from Regina Campus – who had earned degrees from the University of Saskatchewan – to see if they wanted to join the new University of Regina Alumni Association.

“We had a lot of hard work of phoning and mailing letters, to see if they wanted to join the new Alumni Association,” she recalls.

“It took a long time because there wasn’t too much interest.”

The following year, after the first people to attend the new University of Regina graduated with degrees, there was a small but automatic base of members.

“The people from Regina College were older, and the new graduates from the University of Regina were generally younger – and weren’t too keen to rub shoulders with the older people. That was a problem.”

The first executive of the alumni association looked at what had been done at other universities.

“A lot of the executive members were older, and had been on the executive where they attended, and that’s where we got a lot of feedback. We were in touch with other universities and their alumni associations to find out how they formed their alumni associations. We looked at Queen’s, Toronto, Winnipeg and the U of S.  We asked around quite a bit,” Bramham recalls.

And they felt the added pressure of starting something from scratch.

L and D

Lydia (left) and her daughter Daphne Bramham shared MC duties at the 2013 Alumni Crowning Achievement Awards. Photo: U of R Photography

“President Archer told us: ‘we have to do it right, because we’re starting it, and if we don’t do it well now, we’re going to put the next group in trouble.’ So we spent a lot of time researching and seeing what we wanted to do.  It was a lot of work – but it was fun work, because it was a learning experience. It was really difficult at first. But as we got more graduates who were younger, it got better,” she says.

Bramham served as president for two years, and has stayed active in Alumni Association events ever since.

“I’m always interested in the Alumni Association.”

Lydia Bramham’s interest in the Uuniversity of Regina is something of a family affair.  Her late husband, Donald, is a former member of the U of R Senate. Their son, Jack, and their daughter, Daphne, are both graduates of the U of R. Daphne was a recipient of the Alumni Crowning Achievement Award for Professional Achievement.

Lydia Bramham is impressed with the much higher profile the U of R now has in the community than in the 1970s.

“Well, back then you hardly knew it existed, unless you were a teacher or other graduate. Now, everyone knows about the University of Regina.  I think it’s an active force in the community.”