The giant celebrates

Math and Computer building under construction

The Math and Computer building rises; a seven-storey Dana Porter Library is visible across campus.

Centennial year, 1967, found Canada in a euphoric mood, and your university was just as expansive and optimistic as the rest of the country. Everybody who wasn't riding the train to Montréal to see "Man and His World", including a couple of pavilions designed by Waterloo people, was carrying out "centennial projects". B. F. Goodrich Canada, in its project, gave the university $30,000 to support "a library" in relevant technical fields. That was a lot of money in those days; in fact I wouldn't sniff at it even now.

December 1967 saw three performances (in the Theatre of the Arts) of "The Big Land", an oratorio about Canada's greatness, with words by Larry Cummings of St. Jerome's College and music by the university's music director, Alfred Kunz. Yes, of course I was there to hear it; wouldn't miss such a touching tribute to innocence, would I? Perhaps you don't know that the Theatre of the Arts actually has 504 seats, although the official capacity for ticket sales is 500. The other four are set aside for use by the ushering staff, or by trolls, whoever gets there first.

In his book Of Mud and Dreams, published that year to mark Waterloo's tenth anniversary, James Scott called the university "a young giant". Waterloo reported an enrolment of 7,000, with no end to the growth in sight, and approval was given that year for the football Warriors, along with McMaster's Marauders, to join the league that since Noah's flood had consisted only of Toronto, Queen's, McGill and Western. Academically, there was talk of opening an observatory, and a distinguished visitor came all the way from Moscow to meet with Waterloo's laser researchers.

The young giant was playing with building blocks all over the mudfield, with at least nine projects under way in the course of the year, from the Minota Hagey Residence to the Campus Centre (which you, of course, would now call the Student Life Centre). The giant "space frame" roof was hoisted into place above the main gymnasium of the Physical Activities Complex, with much publicity about how it was the largest such free-span roof of its kind in the country, and about how Doug Wright, until very recently the dean of engineering, had been the consultant in its design.

Closer to University Avenue, the existing roadways were shut off and the main campus entrance was put in place - a monument, if you want my opinion, to misplaced faith in the courtesy and skill of automobile drivers, who are practically invited to get into impossible snarls at busy times. Just above the pavement loomed the "food services building", soon to be named South Campus Hall, where the Laurel Room, the Festival Room and (though not for long) the Carnival Room opened for business. Finally, there was an alternative to the old cafeteria in "Annex 2", one of the original portable buildings over by engineering, where human beings could get dinner for $1.05 all-inclusive. Remember, there were no restaurants along University Avenue in those days; you'd have to walk all the way down to King Street to get even a hamburger, at the old Red Barn.

Meanwhile, at the north end of the campus, oh, the difference to trolls when the university and conservation authorities built that dam at Columbia Street! More than a few of us became homeless overnight with the flooding of a large patch of grassland (and, I'll admit, marshland) for the creation of Columbia Lake.

The biggest construction project was the Math and Computer building, which was gradually rising all through that year, give or take the vagaries of weather, materials shortages and strikes. The original target date for occupancy, at least for the giant "red room" that houses central computers, was August 15, but it became clear that there was no way such a goal could be met. Instead, the new IBM 360/75 was assembled and put into operation on the third floor of Physics. A mighty computer it was, too, boasting "500,000 characters" of core memory -- the biggest, fastest computer in Canada until someone bought a bigger one four months later, I've been told.

It may have seemed at times that the university itself had 500,000 characters worthy of note. Among them was J. Sayer Minas, who took over that year as dean of arts, having briefly been dean of graduate studies, chairman (you didn't yet say "chair") of the economics department, and two or three other things. Later he would serve sentences as acting vice-president (academic), chairman of both philosophy and "human relations and counselling studies", director of operations analysis, and I know not what all else. His brushcut hair, his taste for American beer in a time when American beer was pretty exotic stuff, his hobby of hand-printing, his early use of computers to keep track of projects and budgets, his blunt conversational style and his peculiar modesty all made him well known across the university for most of the next two decades.

Another character who departed that year was Fred "Cookie" Cook, the university's original security officer, who took early retirement and headed for the west coast, taking his binoculars with him. He left behind the two German shepherds, Jet and Klodo, who had helped him patrol the campus; they continued to work for the university another year or two, with a new handler. (The less said about police dogs the better, I maintain from the viewpoint of a species that doesn't get along well with large carnivores.)

And there were many other arrivals and departures. Howard Petch came to Waterloo from McMaster University, ostensibly to be a senior professor of physics, but as soon as he got here it was revealed that he was also going to be vice-president (academic), taking over from Ted Batke, who for a time had the new title of vice-president (development). Petch quickly had to serve as acting president too, as the founding president, Gerry Hagey, repeatedly took time away from work to deal with his cancer.

In other transitions, Pat Robertson, who had been at Waterloo in a more junior role, returned as "director of academic services", putting order into the growing bureaucracy. Bob Whitton and Rienzi Crusz joined the staff, Hildegard Marsden was promoted to dean of women, and the faculty was augmented by no fewer than four men who would one day serve as deans: David Burns, Jack Kalbfleisch, Bob Norman and John Thompson. From within Waterloo, George Cross took on the mantle of dean of graduate studies. J. W. Church of the department of design left Waterloo to be the first president of the new Conestoga College of Applied Arts and Technology, as John Robarts and Bill Davis willed a system of community colleges into being.

But I believe I was talking about the Math and Computer building, which was supposed to be ready that year, and wasn't, as a home for the new faculty of mathematics. Never mind: math teaching and research flourished even in temporary quarters. The university's publicity made much of "the fifth annual meeting on functional equations", held at Waterloo in May. The likes of Ian McGee joined the faculty that year, and the first Bachelor of Mathematics degrees were granted at the May convocation.

Academically there were other developments, of course, including the beginning of a professional architecture program in September. The one that got the most publicity, however, was optometry, as the College of Optometry of Ontario picked up lock, stock and spectacles and moved from Toronto to Waterloo (just in time for its site on St. George Street to be taken over by the University of Toronto for the Robarts Library). No other Canadian university had an optometry school. The wits at Waterloo said the move was good not only for the optometrists, giving them an opportunity to work within a context of scientific research, but for the university too. "It will inoculate us against ever having a medical school," somebody said happily. That may have been the year that Waterloo's real distinctiveness first occurred to most people: imagine, a great university without a med school, a law school or a business school! Anyway, optometry did arrive, in time for classes to be held in September wherever there was room for them. An optics laboratory was opened in the new "Biology II" wing, and the optometry clinic opened for patients in the old Waterloo post office building on King Street downtown, which was briefly known as Westminster Towers. Last time I looked, that building, having survived renovation by a software company, had turned into a trendy restaurant.

All sorts of innovative ideas were under consideration. In June, Pete McBryde of the chemistry building published a proposal for "Iroquois College", a new foundation that would be much like one of the existing church colleges, but with a secular ethos instead. Many people said they liked the idea, but somehow nothing came of it. The university did, however, create an Industrial Research Institute, forerunner of the present office of research. And the Water Resources Research Institute, which I suppose is a forerunner of the present groundwater centre, opened a reading room on the top floor of Engineering II. (Libraries? Certainly there were libraries, one for "engineering and science", also housed in Engineering II, and one for arts, officially named the Dana Porter Library shortly after Porter's death that spring. The libraries had a total of 189,258 volumes, somebody calculated late that year.) The graphics lab in engineering, and the new television studio, both got public attention.

And suddenly the young giant was a ten-year-old, and that called for a celebration, of which Scott's book of history was just one part. A bigger part was an open house, to be held in late October. I don't know exactly what this says about Waterloo as the place functioned in those days, but organizing the open house was put almost completely into the hands of a student committee, headed by one Brian Iler, later to be president of the Federation. The week's events included both tours (visitors could choose between the full five-hour tour in engineering and the abbreviated two-hour tour) and special events. There was a reading by Earle Birney (now there's a troll in human attire, if ever I've seen one), there was the official opening of the Isaiah Bowman Building for the Social Sciences (Environmental Studies I, to you), and there were the North American tiddlywinks championships. Yes, really.

I suspect it will not surprise you to hear that the last weeks of 1967 also saw the announcement of the Tenth Anniversary Fund, which set out to raise $5.5 million from Waterloo's corporate friends for more campus development. Arts III, later to be known as the Humanities building, was on the horizon, and the publicity also spoke of "facilities for the programmes in architecture and optometry" -- facilities that wouldn't come into existence for years to come, although only the trolls were cynical enough to suspect that.

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