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University of Calgary kicks off year of 50th Anniversary celebrations

Fifty years ago today, the dreams of thousands of Calgarians were realized

The University of Calgary officially marks its 50th Anniversary today, launching a year-long celebration to honour the legacies of the past while engaging the community in a rich discussion about the future.

The date marks exactly 50 years since legislation created the University of Calgary, realizing the dreams of thousands of tenacious Calgarians — citizens and friends, students and alumni, faculty, and staff — who protested and petitioned over decades to have an independent university.

“We have been an integral part of this vibrant, energetic city for more than five decades. We’ve evolved together and we owe thanks to the vision and hard work of the Calgary community and our university family of students, faculty, staff, alumni and volunteers whose efforts gained our autonomy 50 years ago on April 29, 1966,” says President and Vice-Chancellor Elizabeth Cannon.

“Over the years, we’ve grown from a humble start in tarpaper shacks to a campus with two buildings in a sea of mud to a dynamic, global intellectual hub in Canada’s most enterprising city.”

Programming around the 50th Anniversary begins with a kick-off weekend April 29 to May 1, 2016, when the university will welcome many back to campus, including former university leaders, government officials, donors, volunteers and alumni.

Celebrations on April 29 will first unite the on-campus community (students, faculty, and staff) and then expand to embrace community leaders and supporters who have contributed to the success of the university.

Alumni Weekend

Over April 30 and May 1, the University of Calgary will host its first-ever Alumni Weekend — a chance for alumni to return to campus, bringing family and friends to participate in lectures, interactive programming, tours, exhibits, and special presentations.

Saturday, April 30 will be anchored by the university’s annual Lecture of a Lifetime, hosted at the newly opened Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. This year’s speaker is Aritha van Herk, award-winning Canadian novelist and University of Calgary English professor, who will explore the secrets and allure of storytelling. 

van Herk is also the author of a new book written in honour of the university’s 50th Anniversary. The Age of Audacity — 50 Years of Ambition and Adventure at Calgary’s Own University tells the story of the university from its inception, highlighting its growth in parallel with that of the city and incorporating key episodes that have contributed to its special character. The book will be available at the campus bookstore beginning on April 30.

Year of celebration

Throughout the year, the university will be creating opportunities, on and off campus, to share the teaching, learning and research underway at the university that is changing the world.

Idea Igniters launches in May, and is being held in partnership with the Calgary Public Library. Calgarians are invited to join in a conversation with university researchers to explore topics that are making headlines, subjects that evoke emotion, and push action. The conversation starts May 26.

The university will be hosting the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences from May 28 to June 3. Congress is Canada’s largest gathering of scholars, attracting as many as 8,000 delegates to the city. The multi-day conference provides many opportunities for the public to engage in discussions that have direct importance for Canada and the lives of Canadians.

“We want to thank the community that has given to this university in so many ways,” says Cannon. “We also want to highlight the many achievements of this university to let the community know they have something to be proud of. As part of the Calgary community, our alumni have helped build this city and continue to shape its future.”

There are more than 160,000 alumni that have graduated in the past 50 years and more than 100,000 of those still work and live in the city.

When the University of Calgary first opened its doors in the 1960s, it welcomed 4,000 students. Today, the university has 30,000 registered students and has expanded into five campuses in Calgary and internationally, including a campus in Doha, Qatar.

The 50th Anniversary website contains a rich collection of archival photos, videos, personal stories and fascinating facts about the university’s journey — contribute your own UCalgary story there and remember to share it with your friends and family using the hashtag #ucalgary50.

Originally published in UToday on April 29, 2016

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