Since 1964: looking back on Brock’s 50th anniversary

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In 2014, Brock University celebrated its 50th anniversary. From rededicating the Arthur Schmon tower to bringing the General home, the anniversary celebrations sparked conversation about Brock’s past — and future. Five years later, the changes continue.

Then: In 1957, the movement to create Brock truly began as Flora Egerter approached her peers in the Allanburg Women’s Institute with the resolution to create a university in the Niagara region. In a mere seven years, Egerter’s proposal became an operating university with 127 students in its inaugural year.

After the founding mothers — Egerter and the women of the institute — began the process, the Brock Founder’s Committee incorporated in 1962. The Chairman, Arthur Schmon, dedicated years of his life to forging the university, though he was not able to see his efforts come to fruition as he died shortly before the university opened.

Classes began in 1964 in a refurbished factory located at the bottom of the escarpment. It was with the completion of the tower that the university began building atop the escarpment.

2014: A half-century later, Brock’s student population had reached over 20,000 and one of the campus’ main roads, stretching from Zone 2 parking lot to the Campus Store, was officially renamed to honour Egerter in a celebration for the university’s 50th anniversary.

Brock unveiled a statue of its namesake designed by Canadian artist Danek Mozdzenski as part of the festivities. The statue was placed at the main entrance to the university, by Schmontower and the bus loop, a larger-than-life-size celebration of Major General Sir Isaac Brock. Transporting the statue became an event in itself as students could check the Brock website for updates on his journey as part of the bringing the General home campaign.

Also to commemorate the anniversary, the Schmon Tower was rededicated in a celebration honouring its namesake, including unveiling a portrait of him in the lobby and his family donating records to the university’s archives.

Brock made available online digitalized forms of historic Brock documents, including every available undergraduate calendar from the inaugural year until the 2010-2011 school year, as well as graduate calendars from 1975-1976 until 2003-2004. The library’s Copying and Printing Services took on the digitization, ensuring the files are online as PDFs.

One such file was the first volume of The Blue Badger, the precursor to Brock News, which began with the university in 1964. The fourth issue included a brief article noting that the university’s name and address were frequently confused in mail, with some correspondence being addressed to Block University, Brant University and other variants, and others being addressed to the United States and Queenston. The front page featured an article about the official opening ceremony, attended by approximately 700 people.

Now: From a crowd of 700 to cutting the ribbon on a $24 million dollar renovation to the Goodman School of Business, Brock’s celebrations have grown in scope. As the Brock LINC project progresses, the opening of the new Rankin Family Pavillion, named for local businessman Tom Rankin who donated significantly to its construction, is greatly anticipated.

Brock remains one of only a handful of universities located in a designated United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve. Currently, in Europe and North America, there are 292 such sites located in over 30 countries.

The statue of our namesake still overlooks the heart of campus, now a popular site for photographs. Currently, it guards the pavillion’s construction zone, but in the future it will stand by what the university has declared its front door.

In the future, more buildings, programs and initiatives will come, including the construction of a new student centre building and changes to sexual violence response and education on campus as a result of recently-passed Brock University Students’ Union referendums. While the scope of Brock’s developments has grown over the decades, the heart of it all remains in Egerter’s passion for a university in the region to support the community. The university has always developed rapidly, and will not cease in the foreseeable future.

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