1917: E.H. Oliver and the University of Vimy Ridge
During World War I, Edmund Oliver, the Principal of Presbyterian Theological College, played a leading role in an overseas “adventure in popular education.”
Oliver had been one of the
University of Saskatchewan’s first faculty members, but left in 1914 to join
the affiliated Presbyterian college as principal. In
1916, Oliver enlisted as a World War I chaplain. In December 1917, the University of Vimy Ridge was established
for the Canadian forces in France, with Oliver as president. The University was intended to be “a school
of efficiency and citizenship, a sort of combination of an Agricultural High
School and a Technical School.” Courses
Oliver wrote in March 1918:
“We are aiming to meet the needs of the mass of the men rather than to compete
with your classical Universities in Canada.
I have great faith that much can be done along similar lines in the way
of popular education even in our own country.”
In April, Oliver was forced to suspend operations due to a massive
German offensive. However, he was very
proud of the University’s achievements, and a meeting with General Haig
suggested that there was interest in using the University of Vimy Ridge as a
After the war, Oliver was briefly involved in the French campus of Khaki University, a similar initiative originally based in England, but he soon returned to Saskatoon. President Walter Murray wrote to him that “I think you can safely drop the Khaki University at the very earliest possible date. The centre of interest is now shifted from the armies in the field to the army at home. Demobilization is giving rise to a number of very difficult problems, and the attitude of the returned soldier is uncalculable and important.”
E.H. Oliver fonds, MG 6.
1917a: Letter from E.H. Oliver to his wife, 14 March 1918. E.H. Oliver fonds, file A I (e).
J.E. Murray fonds, MG 61, file A.IV.49.