by Corbin Schuknecht
One of the most distinguishing features of Concordia University is its physical presence overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. While for most of its long history Concordia has enjoyed much the same scenery, this was not always the case. In Concordia College’s yearbook for 1946, its 25th anniversary, an excerpt details the trials which reigned over the college’s first foundational years. How the staff and students handled adversity then was still recognized and appreciated some 25 years later. Now, even 100 years later, I feel that their difficulties remain relevant to our own. When the college’s lectures first began in early November 1921, students enjoyed no permanent home. Classes were held and students slept in the Caledonia Temperance Hotel, a downtown building rented temporarily for the purpose. Much like our recent experience with online schooling, there was very little precedent for what they were doing.
There were, in 1921, “no older students to guide the new ones…all inexperienced, like their teachers.” Students often had questions that the teachers may not have been able to answer. While today we might ask, “Where’s the Google Meet link?” and “Why won’t my audio work?” in 1921 they were asking, “What shall we do with our laundry?” and “Where can I have my watch repaired?”.
Reading about the difficulties that plagued the first year of Concordia’s existence has put much in context for me. Our current situation (the Covid-19 pandemic) is certainly unique and unfortunate, but not entirely unprecedented. Ours is not the only time, even in Concordia’s history, where students and teachers alike have had to rely on improvisation. Written long after Concordia’s permanent residence above the river valley was established, the 1946 yearbook reflects positively on the experience of those teachers and students in 1921. While I am certain that I will not have the same sense of nostalgia for our current times, I will be able to recognize the fact that the struggle was faced by us collectively.
My name is Corbin Schuknecht and I am a History major in my second year of studies at Concordia University of Edmonton. In my free time I enjoy reading about the ancient world, particularly ancient Mesopotamia and Anatolia.
Concordia’s CUE 100 committee is very excited to feature the written work of several students and alumni as part of its centenary celebrations. As these celebrations continue, you can look forward to reading short articles by these writers on interesting aspects of Concordia’s history over the past century. Writers were given access to archival documents on particular topics which they were asked to summarize and personally respond to. You’ll be able to discover much about Concordia’s history and how it still resonates among us today. We hope you find these articles both informative and entertaining. Happy 100, Concordians!