The Department of Physical Education was established in 1945 as an academic department within the Faculty of Education. Professor Maury Van Vliet began its operations with a primary focus on intercollegiate athletics programs and compulsory first- and second-year physical education classes.
By 1954 the Department of Physical Education became the School of Physical Education and in 1964 the status changed to that of a Faculty, making it the first of its kind in the British Commonwealth.
Since its inception, the Faculty has educated and trained generations of coaches, athletes, researchers, teachers and kinesiologists.
Sports teams and organized physical training were part of the university’s activities from its establishment in 1908, with the Varsity Ice Hockey men's team being the very first high performance team on the U of A campus. The “Golden Bears” moniker was adopted in 1935 and “Pandas” in 1945, and to date, the University of Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics is one of the most comprehensive, wide-ranging, consistent and successful programs in all Canadian university sport.