Watch above: U of S recognizes the sacrifices of alumni during WWI ceremony
SASKATOON – Canada entered the First World War as a colony and came of age signing the armistice. Seven years after opening it’s doors, The Great War compelled the University of Saskatchewan to come of age.
“Seventy-five percent of our faculty, staff and students left for the war, to me there was a tremendous out pouring of allegiance,” said Dr. Gordon Barnhart, interim president & vice-chancellor at the U of S.
“What’s quite striking is the fact that these people volunteered to participate in the war. The problem wasn’t recruitment, the problem was trying to enlist all the people who wanted to go,” said Bill Waiser, the University of Saskatchewan Great War commemoration committee chair.
In 1916, the board of governors decided to recognize the contribution and the sacrifice of students, faculty and staff by placing their names on the walls of the building. It’s part of the original fabric but one that often goes unnoticed.
“They’re more then just names, they’re people, they were students, they’re faculty members, they taught students, students learned from these faculty members, they’re regular every day people; that’s what really stands out to me,” said Eric Story, a history student at the university and a Great War Commemoration committee member.
Close to 300 names line the first and second floors at the Peter MacKinnon Building; 349 men and one woman in total are commemorated in the building, now another 18 complete the list.
A ceremony was held at the university to remember all the students, faculty and staff and recognize the 18 omissions.
“Michael Hayden, professor emeritus of history, researched into the university records and military records to double check to see whether there were names that had been missed and he discovered the 18 names,” said Waiser.
The war weighed heavily on the university; it lasted four years, three months and one week, dubbed by some as “the War to End All Wars.”
During WWI, faculty who left to fight were paid half their salaries, students were given a years credit of classes and in 1916, the College of Engineering didn’t offer classes because the students and faculty were gone to war.