Our History

As one of the founding Faculties of the University, Arts has a long tradition of excellence.

In 1908, the University Senate established its first Faculty - the Faculty of Arts and Sciences - with four departments: English, History, Modern Languages and Applied Sciences.

On September 23 of the same year, 37 students attended the first day of classes in four rented rooms on the top floor of the Duggan Street School (now the Queen Alexandra School). According to historian Ellen Schoeck, another eight were expected to register but were delayed by the difficulty of travelling over Alberta's unpaved roads.1

"No University in the History of Canada began its career with so large a number of students"
- President's Report 1908 -1909

The original faculty consisted of five members: President Henry Marshall Tory from McGill University, Luther Herbert Alexander from Columbia University, William Muir Edwards from McGill, William Hardy Alexander from the University of Western Ontario and Edmund Kemper Broadus from Harvard University.

"The staff met great open spaces educationally in a brand new land where students were either straight from high school or had been Methodist ministers and missionaries for a number of years - the 'Theologs.' Some of us were pretty young and silly, but years later Dr. Alexander told me how astonished he was to realize some of his students were as old as, or older, than he. But we as students knew it was a privilege to be taking lectures from these great scholars."
- Ethel Anderson (1912 BA, English)2

From its modest beginnings, the Faculty of Arts has grown to include more than 20 departments and interdisciplinary programs, numerous institutes, more than 350 full-time faculty members and approximately 6,000 students, making it one of the largest teaching and research centres in Western Canada.

"The modern state university has sprung from a demand on the part of the people themselves for intellectual recognition, a recognition which only a century ago was denied them. The result is that such institutions must be conducted in such a way as to relate them as closely as possible to the life of the people. The people demand that knowledge shall not alone be the concern of scholars. The uplifting of the whole people shall be its final goal."
- Henry Marshall Tory, First Convocation Address

1. Ellen Schoeck, I Was There: A Century of Alumni Stories About the University of Alberta, 1906-2006 (Edmonton: U of A Press, 2006), 68.
2. Schoeck, 69-70.

  • For more information about the history of the University of Alberta (including timelines, photo galleries and further reading), please visit the Centenary History site.