RING RETRO: Howard Petch's 25th Anniversary Message

Half a UVic lifetime ago, then-President Howard Petch delivered his 25th anniversary message. Reading it today, much is familiar, though much has changed.

From The Ring, Sept. 9, 1988

25th Anniversary Message from President Howard Petch

In comparison with the history of the University of Bologna, which is celebrating its 900th anniversary this year, our university’s 25 years is not a long time. Yet, as its president for over half of those years, I look back with pride and amazement at what we have accomplished together at the University of Victoria.

This university has settled firmly and irrevocably into the intellectual, cultural and social life of British Columbia. It has become established nationally and internationally as a first-class teaching and research institution.

The twin foundations on which the University was started are the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Faculty of Education, and they remain as its central strength. While maintaining their reputations for good teaching inherited from Victoria College, these two faculties over the past 25 years have greatly increased in size and scope and have established a new dimension in terms of scholarship and research. In addition, they have acted as germinating grounds for new ideas and several new programs, including some of a professional nature, which are now administered by new faculties or schools. The Faculty of Arts and Science, for example, introduced to British Columbia the co-operative education format whereby students alternate between on-campus study terms and off-campus work terms at jobs closely related to their academic programs. Some 15 academic programs throughout the university are now offered in the co-op mode, and they account for about 10 per cent of all full-time students, a figure which is expected to rise to 20 per cent within five years.

During our most recent 15 years, emphasis has been placed on broadening the opportunities for our students by introducing professional programs in child care, health information science, nursing, public administration, social work, law and engineering. Each of these has been developed with modern curricula and methodologies to meet a particular need in British Columbia and Canada. Child care, health information science and public administration are found in only a few Canadian universities, so they attract students from across the country. The nursing program caters to registered nurses who wish to upgrade to degree status, while the social work program concentrates on educating its graduates for practice in rural areas or small towns. The Law Faculty has emphasized student-professor interaction and quality of teaching. Our newest faculty, engineering, is attracting top researchers to teach such hi-tech subjects as telecommunications, computer software engineering, and robotic systems.

Victoria College had an outstanding record for good teaching, but is mandate did not include research. One of the great challenges faced by the University of Victoria at its inception was to develop the scholarship and research component expected of a university without de-emphasizing good teaching, and this challenge remains as valid today as it was in 1963. Judging by the high quality of our graduates and the large number of books and research papers published by faculty members each year, the university indeed has been successful in achieving a good balance between teaching and research. A measure of the quality of the research in the pure and applied sciences at UVic is the fact that in national competition we stood second only to the University of Toronto in the average Natural Science and Engineering Council grant awarded to its researcher in 1987–88.

UVic students and graduates continue to excel in many areas of endeavour, from winning prestigious awards for outstanding academic work to national sports championships. Students in all faculties have reached impressive levels of academic achievement leading to fellowships which enabled them to continue their studies at the world’s finest graduate schools or have proceeded to satisfying careers in society. Our student athletes have brought national and world-wide attention to the university through their successes. Twenty-six were chosen to participate in the 1984 Olympics and six rowers brought home gold, silver and bronze medals for Canada.

The university has striven to develop a close relationship with its community. The community has, in turn, reciprocated our efforts. For example, their participation in and support of our music, theatre and other arts events put on by our Faculty of Fine Arts over the past 25 years give us a great deal of satisfaction. Their financial support has enabled us to help students and provide programs which might not have otherwise been possible. Recently, the Extension and Community Relations Division has helped us to expand our services to the entire province through distance education technologies.

Like a parent with pictures of children, I could go on for hours, but like a parent, I am also concerned about the future. Serious funding cuts have left our university with a smaller government operating grant (after correcting for inflation) than in 1980, despite a 30-per-cent increase in student numbers. As I near my retirement, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to leave with full confidence that the intelligence, energy and dedication of the university of Victoria will be supported by the community and the governments so that this institution can confidently approach its next 25 years of service to society.



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