by Kaeli Mask
In 1921, Concordia University of Edmonton was founded. However, at that time it was known as Concordia College, catering to young men who wanted to learn about Christianity. It wasn’t until 1967 when Concordia began offering first-year university courses, and it wasn’t until 1987 when one could actually earn a degree from this university.
Though it is not even a century old, Concordia University of Edmonton has undergone many progressive changes to its image. In this article, I will explore and discover new facts and events in Concordia’s history by asking people that have greatly influenced this facility’s image. We have a seasoned staff that have dedicated many years of work into these walls.
I have asked Dr. Jonathan Strand about how he ran for president of Concordia. According to Dr. Strand, Concordia’s choosing of presidents is very different than that of the past. In order to understand this, however, many things regarding Concordia’s history must be explained. Much of this information in further paragraphs was derived from Dr. Jonathan Strand’s The Story of Concordia.
When Concordia was founded in 1921, it was a seminary of the Lutheran Church called Missori Synod, and it was a high school before it offered college-level courses. During the 1920s, Schwermann Hall–named after Concordia’s first president, Alfred Schwermann, who remained the facility’s president for some 30 years–and Founder’s Hall were built. In the late 1920s, women were admitted into the institution to prepare them to be teachers in Church schools; however, because they lacked proper instruction and information, women were not admitted again until 1939. By this time, it had expanded its curriculum. It wasn’t until 1946 when Eberhardt hall was built and the first women’s dorm was on campus.
In the early 1950s, Alumni Hall was built, and in 1954, Walter Wangerin stepped in as Concordia’s second president. He had visions of shaping Concordia into a Liberal Arts university, a method of teaching that goes back thousands of years, being originally taught by ancient Greeks (according to topuniversities.com). A modern-day liberal arts degree is “interdisciplinary, covering topics within the humanities as well as social, natural and formal sciences.” However, Concordia was not ready for such a concept, and Wangerin left the institution in 1959, the same year that Guild Hall was dedicated to his name.
Throughout several years, many changes to Concordia’s programming were made in order to include degrees similar to those of the University of Alberta, or at least enough degrees for people to be able to continue their education at Concordia. From the mid-80s to the 2000s, Concordia expanded many of its buildings, including the construction of the library in 1994, the opening of the Robert Tegler Student Center in 1992 (a project worth 2.3 million dollars), and the opening of the Ralph King Athletic Center in 1997. In 2007, the Hole Academic Center was completed, and today, we have a new science wing under construction branching off of Guild Hall.
It was during this time that Missori Synod divided itself, becoming independent and naming itself the Lutheran Church of Canada. The LCC, which held the title and deed to Concordia, reached out to the board and instructed that they no longer say that the university was “owned and operated” by the LCC, essentially erasing its religious heritage from future records.
Before today’s method of choosing of Concordia’s presidents, the Lutheran Church once had a large impact on how Concordia’s presidents were selected. According to Dr. Strand, presidential selection was very particular. The process was reliant on the church body, and the people selected were clergymen, trained in the same way Concordia founded: training young men to be pastors. Because this process was not nearly as common as it was in the 1920s, there were not that many candidates for president back in the day.
It wasn’t until November of 2015 that President Krispin, Concordia’s last Lutheran president, proposed that Concordia no longer remain a faith-based institution. His reasoning was that Concordia would best maintain its sustainability by becoming public. The board approved this idea, and after 94 years, Concordia no longer identifies itself as a faith-based institution.
After Dr. Krispin retired as president, Dr. Tim Loreman became “Concordia’s first non-Lutheran, and not theologically-trained president.” I asked Dr. Strand what he believes the future will hold for Concordia, and he says that “Concordia is exploring the possibility of becoming a public institution, if the province is interested.”