Lakeland College is celebrating its first century in 2013, with a theme of “Celebrating the past and transforming the future” and events through the year leading up to the official 100th anniversary in November.
Lakeland, located in Vermilion and Lloydminster, has played an important part in the development of the province and has true agricultural roots. It was started as a demonstration farm to help early settlers learn to farm and eventually became an agricultural college.
Cathy Wolters, chair of historical acknowledgment for the centennial, has been researching the school’s history and uncovering interesting and intriguing stories about the school’s past. She is identifying a “Century club” of 100 significant members, animals, events and objects that will be unveiled throughout the year.
Wolters says she has been moved by the emotion and dedication surrounding the college. “You can still see this in alumni. It’s been fascinating to follow up on that history.”
Wolters says that in 1908, members of the local board of trade advocated for an agricultural school for Alberta’s early settlers. “Many of these people came from Europe, Ontario or the States and they knew how to farm, but there were some that heard that you could grow bananas in Manitoba and they arrived here with no idea about how to go about making a living.”
The location of agricultural colleges was influenced by early politicians. Agriculture Minister Duncan Marshall represented Olds and Premier Clifford Sifton represented Vermilion. Marshall wanted to establish demonstration farms and bought properties throughout the province. Three became agricultural schools at Vermilion, Olds and Claresholm, which closed in the 1920s.
Greeted by Prince
During the first few years, Lakeland tuition was free and students were only required to pay board. Students would arrive by train and the principal at the time would pick them up in a buggy pulled by a horse named Prince, who is named in the top 100 influentials. “Prince was often the first figure they met at the ag college. He had quite a history and was famous enough that his obituary appeared in the Edmonton Journal.”
The college has changed uses to accommodate different needs throughout history. In 1918, the college was turned into a hospital to accommodate the influenza outbreak. During the Second World War, it became a training centre for the Canadian Women’s Army Corps, and all college activities were moved to Olds.
Lakeland has offered a variety of courses throughout the years, based on trends and need. Wolters uncovered pictures depicting chicken physiology and knot tying, popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Blacksmith tool building was popular in the 1920s. In the 1960s, agricultural schools began to add more vocational training and apprenticeships in welding and carpentry.
Women were allowed to attend the college beginning March 1914. “That’s one thing that I find enlightening about the settlement and life here at the time. It was decided fairly early on that we were going to train our young women as well,” says Wolters.
The women weren’t left out of any area, and were allowed to take carpentry, welding, home economics, business and typing. The focus on clothing and design eventually became Lakeland College’s interior design program.
The kickoff to the centennial year began with a pioneer celebration last November, followed in January by a re-creation of the 1987 Guinness world record the college set for the world’s longest toboggan, which held 100 students and staff.
In March Lakeland will host its first Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Nationals and the women’s volleyball event on the Lloydminster campus. A new annual President’s Gala will be held for the first time mid-March, featuring Senator Romeo Dallaire as keynote speaker. Annual convocations, and alumni homecoming and a golf tournament during the summer months will also celebrate the centennial.
John Furlong, former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics Committee, will speak at an event in October, and the celebration ends Nov. 16 with an event attended by Premier Alison Redford and Lieutenant-Governor Donald Ethell.
“You can see that we’re really incorporating some of the events that would have happened anyway,” Wolters says. “Our homecoming in June will be really big and we’re hoping to get as many people here as possible.”