Building a world-changer

In 1957, innovation and entrepreneurship brought University of Waterloo into being, as a group of business leaders imagined a new university built to tackle some of the world’s most daunting challenges.

It was the age of the Cold War and the space race, when a single computer filled a room. Discoveries in science, medicine and engineering were coming fast and furious. Industry leaders in Kitchener-Waterloo knew moving forward meant more than just training people in the technology of the day.

Take a moment to look back on our firsts, the progress we've made, and some of our key accomplishments over the years: 

Waterloo's three founders

Waterloo builders: J. Gerald Hagey (left), Ira G. Needles(centre) and Reverend Cornelius Siegfried (right).  

Outside of chemistry and chemical engineering building

Waterloo's first building, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, is completed in December 1958.

Wes Graham

In the early 1960s, mathematics professor Wes Graham made Waterloo among the first universities in the world to give undergraduates access to state-of-the-art computers


Student on co-op

The first co-op program outside of engineering is established in the Department of Physics in 1962.

James Downey and Doug Wright

Former presidents ​James Downey (left) and Doug Wright (right).


Arts students shaking profs hand

In 1975, the first Arts co-op stream begins for Economics students, demonstrating the value of co-operative education in all fields.

David Johnston

David Johnston, Waterloo's 5th President, formerly serving as the 28th Governor General of Canada.

Exterior of school of pharmacy

Canada’s only pharmacy co-op program the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Campus opens in downtown Kitchener in 2006.

Exterior of Tatum Centre

In 2003, the William M. Tatham Centre for Cooperative Education and Career Services opens, the largest building dedicated to co-operative services at a Canadian university.


John Thompson

In 2004, Biologist John Thompson discovered gene eIF5A — a "death switch" in plants and animals that determines whether cells live or die which also enhances crop yields and combat cancer and other diseases.

Canadian Foundation for Innovation group photo

In 2007, the largest amount awarded to any Canadian university,the Canadian Foundation for Innovation announces a $33M grant to the University of Waterloo.


Students holding up greenhouse sign

The first and only live-in campus-linked accelerator in Canada St. Paul’s GreenHouse Social Impact Incubator, established in 2013.

Trudeau walking down stairs of University of Waterloo building

University of Waterloo has a $2.6 billion per year economic impact in Ontario according to a 2013 Economic Impact Report.


Students working at Velocity Garage

Startups launched by Waterloo researchers, students and alumni: BlackBerry, Clearpath Robotics, D2L, Kik Interactive, Maplesoft, MappedIn,   OpenText, Vidyard

Students at convocation

Today, Waterloo has more than 203,000 graduates in 152 countries.


Donna Strickland

On October 2, 2018, Professor Donna Strickland is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Strickland is the third woman in history to receive this prestigious honour.

Dominic Barton

Dominic Barton installed as the University's 11th chancellor October 27, 2018.


Avery broderick

Waterloo Professor and Physicist Avery Broderick helps capture first image of a black hole and unveils it to the world April 10, 2019.

woman working on computer

In the wake of 2020's global pandemic, Waterloo moves online, seeing the largest Spring Term class learning remotely in Canada.