An incredibly brief history of the University of Manitoba: From creation to now, in the blink of an eye

So you’re an eager new university student bursting at the seams with a childlike sense of wonder and curiosity.

By now you’ve been to your first classes, visited a few buildings, met a professor or two – you’ve gotten to know this place a little bit.

One thing you probably haven’t done, though, is learn much about this very institution you are attending. So, in the name of brevity let’s run through an all-too-short history of the University of Manitoba. Read this and you can forever say: “Yeah, I know all about that whole U of M thing.”

The largest university in the province and the first in Western Canada, the University of Manitoba was founded on February 28, 1877. The U of M was actually created so founding colleges—St. Boniface College, St. John’s College, and Manitoba College—could confer degrees on their graduating students. At the time, the U of M was one of approximately 20 other degree-granting institutions within the Dominion of Canada.

In 1882, the Manitoba Medical College became a part of the university; in 1902, the Manitoba College of Pharmacy joined, followed by the Manitoba Agriculture College in 1906. By this time the university had completed construction on a science building on Broadway Avenue, fully housed with the first six professors of the U of M’s new faculty of science: A.H.R Buller, Frank Allen, M.A. Parker, R.R. Cochrane, Swale Vincent, and Gordon Bell. Shortly thereafter the Agriculture College was erected in Tuxedo.

As the U of M continued to grow, administrators began showing interest in a more permanent site for the university, complete with a board of governors, a president, and more teaching departments.

After much lobbying from many parties, a 570 acre site adjacent to the Red River was chosen to be the future home of the University of Manitoba. The new campus’ first buildings Taché Hall, the Home Economics Building, and the current Administration Building—opened in 1912.

By 1914 the U of M began offering arts courses, and in 1919 the University of Manitoba Student’s Union (UMSU) was created. It was during this period of growth and expansion that the university finally became a provincially-funded institution.

In 1932, scandal erupted when John A. Machray, honourary bursar and chair of the Board of Governors, was arrested under charges of embezzling from the U of M. Machray was found to have lost nearly $869,000 in investments outside the interest of the U of M.

Colleges such as St. Paul’s and Brandon College continued to join the U of M in the 30s but student placement, as ever, continued to be an issue.  Up until the 1950s students were split between locations, with junior students attending the Broadway campus and senior students Fort Garry.  In 1961, the U of M’s building on Broadway was demolished and Fort Gary became the new permanent campus.

The U of M grew at an exponential rate through the 1960s and it is during this period that we see the emergence of many organizations and structures still present today. Forgive me for moving at breakneck speed, here.

Today the University of Manitoba has a second campus once more; the Bannatyne campus, which houses the faculties of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and the Schools of Dental hygiene and Medical Rehabilitation.

In 1999 the university saw the creation of Smartpark, a 100-acre research and technology park on the Fort Garry campus, which hosts over 1,000 employees, many of whom are co-op students and U of M graduates.

Approximately 22,000 undergrad students attend the U of M every year, 3,000 at the graduate level.