The Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine began as a training program for physical therapists. In 1954, 18 students enrolled in a 20-month diploma established in response to the large number of young people who contracted polio in the 1950s before the Salk vaccine was developed. Programs in occupational therapy and speech-language pathology were introduced later, in 1960 and 1969 respectively.
In the early 1960s most of our staff came from Britain or the United States because highly trained Canadian professionals were scarce. In 1964 we became the School of Rehabilitation Medicine. In March 1976 we were granted Faculty status. In 1969 we offered our first degree: a Bachelor of Physical Therapy. We became the first institution in Canada to offer a graduate degree in physical therapy (MSc PT) in 1979.
Our professional entry physical therapy program transitioned from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s level in 2003. Communications Sciences and Disorders (formerly known as the Speech Pathology and Audiology)'s last BSc SLP class convocated in 1993 and most occupational therapy BSc OT students graduated by 2008.
Construction for our building began in fall 1928. To this day it is one of the last remaining prized historical buildings at the University of Alberta. On January 3, 1930, it opened as the Edmonton Normal School, an Albertan centre for training teachers.
It is an E-shaped, modern Renaissance building designed by a provincial Department of Public Work draftsman named WW Butchard. The plaster models for its stone detailing were made in Edmonton but the carving was undertaken in Manitoba where the tyndal stone was obtained. The facing reddish tapestry brick was manufactured in Medicine Hat.
During WWII, Corbett Hall’s South Wing housed the Initial Training School (ITS) Number 4 for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Corbett Hall was named in 1963 after E.A. (Ned) Corbett, the second Director of the Faculty of Extension from 1928 to 1937 and the founder of Canada’s first university radio station, CKUA. Corbett Hall has been used by several faculties including the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Extension, the Schools of Nursing and Rehabilitation, and the Drama Department.
In 1988 Corbett Hall was closed to undergo interior and exterior renovations at the cost of about $11 million. The official re-opening of this historic building and the only free-standing rehabilitation medicine faculty in North America took place fall 1991.
Corbett Hall is home to the “ghost of Emily.” Emily is thought to date back to the days when Corbett Hall was a Normal School offering teacher training. She must have felt strongly attached to the place, for it is believed that Emily is still seen walking across the stage in the building’s auditorium.