Type of entity
Authorized form of name
Sir George Williams University
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Other form(s) of name
- Sir George Williams College (1926-1959)
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Dates of existence
The history of Sir George Williams University began with the establishment of the Young Men's Christian Association in Montreal in 1851. Part of the Y.M.C.A.'s mandate was to meet the needs of its members and to serve the Montreal community, so when members of the community, working individuals and local business leaders voiced the need for education "obtained from no text book...(but) from original sources," the Montreal Y.M.C.A. stepped in, and in 1873, the association inaugurated evening courses in vocational and general education. This system was known as the Educational Program and later, the Montreal Y.M.C.A. Schools.
In 1926, the Montreal Y.M.C.A. Schools changed its name to Sir George Williams College in honor of the founder of the Y.M.C.A. (London, England, 1844).
The College was intended to expand formal education opportunities for both young men and women employed in Montreal. Student guidance counselling and student-faculty interaction were particularly encouraged within the tightly-knit college community. The Depression and the economic boom in the '30s both led to steady enrolment increases. The College grew from a two-year program in the 1920s to a four-year program in 1934.
In 1948, Sir George Williams College officially obtained its university charter although it had been granting degrees since 1936/37. The recognition and financial assistance that came out of this led to further expansion. In 1959, the College requested that the Provincial Legislature amend its University Charter, changing its name to Sir George Williams University.
The university operated in various "annexes" throughout the neighbourhood but rapid expansion of the University led to the construction of a new building to accommodate all of its activities. In 1956, Sir George Williams University moved into the newly-constructed Norris Building. Even as the new building was opened, it was evident it would not be large enough and increasingly heavy enrollment forced the university into more annexes. Planning began for the construction of a new and larger building, and in 1966, the Henry F. Hall Building was opened on de Maisonneuve Boulevard.
Meanwhile in 1963 a Faculty structure was implemented when the combined Faculty of Arts, Science, and Commerce separated into three distinct faculties and the new Faculty of Engineering was created. Increased enrollment and larger government grants allowed the College to hire more full-time faculty members. Many disciplines began to offer more specializations, and Masters and Doctoral programs were added to the growing list of Majors and Honours.
It was the first Canadian university that offered a full range of university programs to evening students. In the late-1960s, Sir George Williams University severed ties, financial and otherwise, with the Y.M.C.A.
At the time of the merger with Loyola College, Sir George Williams University offered undergraduate and graduate programs to a diverse community.
In August 1974, Sir George Williams University merged with Loyola College to form Concordia University.
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