VIU celebrates history with unveiling of commemorative plaque

October 11, 2012 - 5:42am


NANAIMO, BC - Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) historic roots were celebrated today with the unveiling of a six-tonne granite rock engraved with a special plaque at Sid Clarke Gyro Park in Nanaimo.

The park, at the corner of Machleary and Campbell streets, is the historic site where Jack Macready opened Nanaimo’s first vocational training school - the Dominion-Provincial Youth Training Centre in 1938.

Two years earlier, in 1936, Macready began training eight automotive students in an old wood shed-turned-classroom before moving to the larger location.

“The City of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island University have both come a long way since then,” said Mayor John Ruttan, among a group of government and university officials at the historic celebration.

“We value the strong relationship that has existed between the city and VIU as it evolved from its early days in trades training to become a full-fledged university.”

With the support of local business owners, and funding from federal and provincial governments, Macready’s Dominion-Provincial Youth Training Centre thrived.

It was renamed BC Vocational Training School in 1959, and eventually melded with Malaspina College operating at the old hospital site on Kennedy Street.

Growth and evolution continued when the institution moved to 5th Street in 1976. It was renamed Malaspina University-College in 1989, and Vancouver Island University in 2008.

“We are proud of the university’s heritage,” said VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson.

“This marker, in a city park on the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, is a reminder of the close ties we have with all the communities we serve, and of all the key individuals who have helped shape the university into what it is today.

“As we stand at this historic location, we recognize our roots and pay tribute to the individuals, businesses and community partners who have shaped VIU.”

The six-tonne granite boulder was donated to the University by LaFarge Canada.

“The rock symbolizes the university’s roots, and the partnerships between government, business and educational institutions that enhance the quality of life in Vancouver Island communities,” said Lafarge General Manager Don Renwick.

The rock also symbolizes significant contributions of dedicated community members like Don Hubbard, former General Manager of Lafarge’s Vancouver Island and north coast BC operations, said VIU Board Chair Mike Brown.

Hubbard has enjoyed a 47-year association with VIU. He trained in the Heavy Equipment Operator program at the BC Vocational Training School in 1966, and upgraded his education through VIU’s Adult Basic Education program in 1971.

Hubbard was a founding member of VIU’s Alumni Association, and remains a valued member of the VIU Foundation today.

Appointed to the VIU Board of Governors in 2002, he served for six years (including two years as Board Chair) and played an instrumental role in rallying community support when Malaspina University-College transitioned to University status in 2008.

Now Board Chair of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Hubbard received VIU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in June 2012.

“Don Hubbard is just one example of the hundreds of dedicated community-focused individuals who work diligently with VIU to ensure relevant and quality educational programs are accessible to students throughout our region,” said Brown.

Also attending the commemorative ceremony was 91-year-old Arthur Baker, one of 47 students in Jack Macready’s first automotive mechanics class at the Dominion-Provincial Youth Training Centre in 1938. Baker is recognized as VIU’s oldest alumnus.

Macready “would stand in awe” to know that VIU today serves 18,000 students and has 45,000 alumni. The institution has grown into a dynamic, thriving internationally respected university that plays a vital role in the educational, cultural and economic life of the region, said Nilson.

Tags: In the Community

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