University of Lethbridge has humble and controversial beginnings
With 50 years of history behind it, the University of Lethbridge, nestled in the coulees on the west side, is an icon of the city. But there was much controversy over its location before it was built in 1968.
“The university started in 1967, at the college. So [they] established themselves there in ATCO trailers… so there was a lot of thought the university should stay there, they should expand the campus, but that was going to cost a lot more money,” U of L archivist Michael Perry said.
University administration, students and the City of Lethbridge all agreed the west side was the better location, but the provincial government didn’t see it that way. They proposed a city referendum to determine where the campus should be built.
“There was some people in town who were calling for a plebiscite, they wanted a vote in town. When in reality, the board of governors in the university had the right to decide where the university was going to go. It was in the university’s act of 1966,” Perry said.
So construction started in 1968 and was carried out by PCL, the same company working on the current destination project.
Perry say it was the university that sparked development on the west side of Lethbridge. The area once comprised farm land, but is now home to almost 40,000 people and many businesses.
“Within a couple of years they started building developments, University Heights, Varsity Village…. other communities started on the west side.” he said.
As the university grows, Perry hopes faculty, students, and residents will take the time to learn about an important city staple.
“Community has been a very important of the university’s history and it’s time to share that… May 1968 was a very exciting time.”
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