U of A agriculture school celebrates centennial

Faculty has made extensive contributions provincially, nationally and internationally

It’s a big birthday party that will go on all year, and hundreds of people are invited.

The University of Alberta’s agriculture faculty will be celebrating its centennial until November 2015.

The school opened in 1915 with only 16 students but today, the rechristened faculty of agriculture, life and environmental sciences (ALES) has 1,500 undergraduates, 500 graduate students, and 120 faculty members.

“ALES is at the forefront of research which will help address significant global challenges in food security and safety, the environment, and personal and community well-being,” university president Indira Samarasekara said at the centennial kickoff event Oct. 22.

Among the accomplishments Samarasekara highlighted was the launch of the home economics program in 1918, which enabled women to pursue post-secondary education during a time when few universities accepted women.

She also cited some of the research that has had a profound impact on agriculture provincially, nationally and internationally. That included Gary Stringham’s work to develop blackleg-resistant canola in the 1980s when the disease threatened to devastate the Cinderella crop. Also cited was Fred Bentley, whose work in soil science and sustainable agriculture improved crop production throughout the world, and Betty Crown’s research in textile flammability helped create flame-resistant pyjamas and protective clothing for forest firefighters.

Agriculture dean, Stan Blade outlined his vision of the future and how the faculty needs to be positioned for the next 100 years. Former prime minister Kim Campbell, founding principal of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College, moderated a panel session featuring horticulturist Jim Hole, soil scientist Bill Shotyk, former premier Ed Stelmach and human ecology professor, Janet Fast. Panel members discussed the importance of leadership in providing global solutions. Audience members were also treated to a 15-minute dramatic skit that showcased the history of ALES.

Other centennial events to be held over the course of the coming year include a lecture series, an exhibit honouring Lois Hole, and old country fair, the Bar None reunion dinner, and a special convocation.

A timeline of the history of the faculty and complete list of centennial events can be found on the University of Alberta website.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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