Grebel History

Conrad Grebel University College was chartered in 1961, taught its first classes in 1963 and dedicated its first building (a residence for 106 students) in 1964. Ontario Mennonite leaders established Grebel when more Mennonite young adults were attending secular universities for training in specialties not available at traditional Mennonite colleges or bible schools. The possibility of an affiliated college at the University of Waterloo allowed Ontario Mennonites to provide post-secondary education with a relatively small financial investment. Conrad Grebel University College added “University” to its name in June 2001 to recognize its graduate program and to differentiate itself from community colleges.

Crucial visionaries in founding Conrad Grebel College included Norman High, Harvey Taves, John W. Snyder, Henry H. Epp and Milton R. Good. J. Winfield Fretz began service as Grebel’s first president in 1963, and made an impact in the Ontario Mennonite community far beyond Grebel.

The Ontario Mennonite leaders initially envisioned a residential college for Mennonite students studying at university in non-theological disciplines. They expected that Conrad Grebel’s teaching would be limited to religious knowledge and such other liberal arts courses as would be negotiated with the university. However, Grebel’s teaching program rapidly expanded, with an academic office and classroom building added in 1976.

Students at Grebel

Grebel’s undergraduate students are registered at, and receive their degrees from, the University of Waterloo. Grebel established its own Graduate Theological Studies in 1987; these students receive a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree from Conrad Grebel University College. Ontario provincial funding has typically provided half of Conrad Grebel’s income through grants and undergraduate tuition fees; the remainder comes from residence income, donations and endowment income, as well as other sales of services.

Mennonite students have usually filled half the spaces in the residence, but the percentage of Mennonite students in Conrad Grebel academic courses is much less than 10%. This mix reflects the unique mission of Grebel as it intersects with the very diverse student body of a large provincial university.

Conrad Grebel University College (CGUC) was the first Mennonite post-secondary school in Ontario (although Ontario Mennonite Bible Institute earlier offered individual courses that were accepted for college credit at Mennonite colleges in the United States). The College was known as Conrad Grebel College (CGC) until June 2001 when it changed its name both to distinguish its university-level teaching from Ontario community colleges and to recognize its graduate theological studies program.

Norman High, Chair of the Provisional Board of Governors.

J. Winfield Fretz (standing left) inaugurated as President by Milton R. Good. Seated at left front are Paul Mininger (Goshen College) and Walter Klaassen. MAO 1987-1-57

Conrad Grebel College, 1974.
MAO 1984-1-146

  1. 1957
    1. Sep
      1. The University of Waterloo is born

  2. 1959
    1. Oct
      1. Initial meeting of Ontario Mennonite leaders to brainstorm a Mennonite college

  3. 1960
    1. May
      1. Milton Good in the field before Grebel is built
        The new institution is named Conrad Grebel College

    2. Jun
      1. A provisional board chaired by Norman High is organized

    3. Dec
      1. 1960 people standing near a Conrad Grebel College building sign
        Official land development and affiliation agreements signed between University of Waterloo and Conrad Grebel College

  4. 1961
    1. Apr
      1. Conrad Grebel receives its provincial charter

    2. Oct
      1. First Grebel Board of Governors groundbreaking
        An official board of governors is formed and by-laws are adopted

  5. 1963
    1. Sep
      1. J. Winfield Fretz
        J. Winfield Fretz becomes first president

      2. Academic program begins with one professor and two courses

  6. 1964
    1. Sep
      1. 1960s Grebel student in a residence room
        Residence building opens with beds for 106 students

    2. Oct
      1. Dedication

    3. Nov
      1. First College choir is created

  7. 1965
    1. Sep
      1. Helen Martens stands with Howard Dyck
        Grebel offers the first music courses at the University of Waterloo

      2. Conrad Grebel College Church formed

    2. Oct
      1. Mennonite Archives of Ontario moves to Grebel
        Mennonite Archives of Ontario moves to Grebel

  8. 1966
    1. Sep
      1. School for Adult Studies begins