People and places in Dal history

Who are all these building named after anyway?

Dalhousie University has grown to encompass 230 acres of land, comprised of three campuses in the South End of Halifax, and the Agriculture Campus in Truro in its 200 years.  

The university started as the brain child of Lord Dalhousie: George Ramsay, the ninth Earl of Dalhousie. He wanted to “establish a Halifax college open to all, regardless of class or creed,” and “on principles of religious toleration,” reads Dal’s History and Tradition webpage.  

Lord Dalhousie was born in Dalhousie Castle, Scotland in 1770; he started his military career in 1780 and he worked through the ranks, becoming Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia in 1816.  

Lord Dalhousie was Lieutenant-General of Nova Scotia when he founded the college in 1818; but operation was intermittent as Lord Dalhousie was named Governor General of Canada and left Halifax shortly after his founding of the university.  

Dal University’s original campus was the Halifax Grande Parade where City Hall stands today. The iconic Arts and Administration Building that rests at the top of the Studley Quad wouldn’t open for another 133 years, in 1951.  

In the Dalhousie Gazette’s special issue, Historical Number published Sept. 12, 1903 it reported: “The actual date of the foundation has been variously given; at 1821, when the Act to incorporate the Board of Governors of Dalhousie College passed the House of Assembly ; as 1820, when the corner-stone was laid. No one has proposed 1819, when the building was begum. The true date is 1818.”  

1881 is when Lord Dalhousie received permission to use his funds from the war. He invested 7,000 pounds of [his war spoils] as an endowment for the college and put aside 3,000 pounds for its construction. 

Dal’s first president was Dr. Rev. Thomas McCulloh, a Glasgow University graduate, but it wouldn’t be until 1863 until “Dalhousie opened with six professors and one tutor,” after reorganization and reconstitution by the government of Dr. Charles Tupper. The first degrees awarded by Dalhousie University were in 1866: two Bachelor of Arts degrees to Joseph Henry Chase and Robert Shaw.  

Margaret Florence Newcombe is Dal’s first woman to graduate from the university, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1885. The university was only opened to women scholars after the governors of the university received their first letter from a woman who wished to attend the institution. 

“It was submitted to the Governors, who decided that Dalhousie was open, with all its privileges, to any lady capable of entering,” reported the Dalhousie Gazette in November 1881 – the same year Miss Lillie B. Calkin became the first woman editor at the campus publication.  

It would be another 15 years before Dal diversifies again to allow African Nova Scotians to enroll. 17 years after the first woman receives a degree, the first African Nova Scotian graduates from Dal in 1898: James Robinson Johnston who began attending Dal in 1896 and studied law. 

The Dalhousie Gazette was founded in Dal’s 50th year, 1868 – although the masthead title has changed over the years. 117 years later in 1985 CKDU, Dal’s campus radio hits the airwaves of Halifax.  

Expanding Campus

In 1887, the university moved to today’s Carleton Campus in the Forrest Building, originally known as “the New Dalhousie Building.” Dal continued growing and in 1911 the Board of Governors paid $50,000 for “one of the best large pieces of unoccupied land on the Halifax peninsula:” the Studley Campus emerged. The ever-growing Dalhousie University moved from the Forrest Building onto the Studley Campus “where the buildings are constructed from ironstone quarried across the Northwest Arm to campus,” according to the Dal 200 timeline.  

In 1912, the cornerstone of the Science Building is laid. In 1914, the cornerstone for the Macdonald Building (formerly the Macdonald Library) was laid. In 1921, the Arts Building cornerstone was laid; we know it today as the University Club.  

Shirreff Hall opened in 1923, thanks to $300,000 from Jennie Shirreff Eddy in 1920 – “the largest donation ever given to the university and the largest of its kind given by a woman in Canada,” at that time, according to Dal’s 200th anniversary timeline. Shirreff was a nurse, business woman and philanthropist born in Chatham, New Brunswick.  

Howe Hall, one of Dal’s most infamous and oldest residences, was named after the university’s first Chancellor, C.D. Howw.  

She’d built the women’s residence in response to the increase of women’s enrollment to the university but the lack of a women’s residence; Shirreff Hall is the first women’s residence at Dalhousie.  

Also in 1923, Dalhousie entered into a partnership with the University of King’s College after King’s had been burnt down in Windsor in 1920.  

“Under this agreement, King’s agreed to pay the salaries of a number of Dalhousie professors, who in turn would help in the management and academic life of King’s College,” says the University of King’s College History online.  

In 1966, “the great support of Dorothy J. Killam, in recognition of Izaak Walton Killam, creates an endowment to further graduate studies,” cites Dal’s 200th timeline. “In honor of her philanthropy, the Dorothy J. Killam Memorial Lecture Series brings great minds to campus every year.” 

The Weldon Law Building opened in 1967 and hosts the Sir James Dunn LAw Library and the Schulich School of Law. 

Ten years after the first chancellor was appointed, Lady Beaverbrook (formerly Lady Dunn) became the second chancellor of Dal in 1968.  

That same year, University Avenue received a major facelift: the Student University Building was built, and the Dalhousie Arts Centre and Killam Memorial Library construction was underway.  

The Killam Memorial Library finally opened in 1971. Today it’s the largest academic library in Atlantic Canada with over one million books and 40,000 journals.  

The contentiously fought-for Dalplex – with its fancy roof, made of steel and suspended by compressed air – finally opened in 1979.  

A fire in 1985 caused by a lightning strike destroyed the Sir James Dunn Law Library and four years later in 1989, the Sir James Dunn Library opened in the Weldon Law Building.  

Lady Dunn had been married to Sir James Dunn, an 1898 Dal Law graduate and for whom the Sir James Dunn Foundation is named after; the foundation funded the Sir James Dunn Science Building, home of the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science as well as the Halifax Planetarium, that opened in the year 1960 on Sir James Dunn’s birthday, Oct. 29.  

A merger in 1997 combined the Technical University of Nova Scotia and Dalhousie University, allowing the creation of the Faculty of Computer Science.  

In 2001, the Marion McCain Arts and Social Science Building opened. In 2005, the Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building was unveiled, “capping the $25-million Management Without Borders campaign and uniting Business Administration, Public Administration, Library and Information Studies and Resource and Environmental Studies,” according to 

The Mona Campbell Building opened in the fall of 2010; the first LEED Gold certified university building in Atlantic Canada. Three years later in June 2013, the Steele Ocean Sciences Building was added onto the Life Sciences Building for offices and labs for Dal’s key oceans projects.  

Kenneth C. Rowe is the 79th richest Canadian according to Canada Business magazine, with a net worth of 1.48 billion and a majority share-holder for IMP group. On the Rowe School of Business website, Dal writes that “It’s this leadership style, combined with his drive to win and his commitment to ethics in business that have led Ken Rowe to be widely regarded as one of the most brilliant business minds Canada has ever known.” And it’s for this they’ve named their business school after him.  

Mona Campbell was a life-long friend of Dalhousie. At 33-years old she inherited major shares in a lot of companies and two years later she took the CEO position at Dover industries; when she died she left $10million to the school.  

“From the standpoint of sustainability, she’d appreciate this very much because she was a farmer and a custodian of the land. And you know, she really enjoyed and appreciated young people,” said Dr. John Curry (MD’67) quotes a Dal News article, A Remarkable Woman published in 2010.  

The Steele Ocean Sciences was named after Harry Steele. He was inspired to donate money for the Ocean Sciences building because of his friendship with Seymour Schulich. Seymour Schulich’s donation of $20 million is the largest gift of its kind ever made to a Canadian law school. The gift funds 40 new annual scholarships, creating greater student accessibility. 

Between the growing campuses in Halifax and influx of young faces taking over the streets in their Blundstones and beanies, in 2012, Dal amalgamated with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro and became the Agriculture Campus.  

The most recent structure added to the Dal’s growing campuses is LeMarchant Place; a residence building for 300 students; it also houses the Dal Health and Wellness Centre, the International Centre, Admissions Office and the Welcome and Recruitment Office. 

The most recent addition overall, has been the permanent raising of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Flag installed to the AC in June 2016 followed by Studley and Carleton Campuses in the following October, coinciding with Mi’kmaq History Month.  

The most recent President of Dalhousie University is Richard Florizone, the university’s 11th president; he oversees 13 faculties, over 180 degree programs, 90 exchange programs in 43 different countries, over 400 student societies, 999 professors and over 18,000 students across 4 campuses.  

Leave a Comment

Kaila Jefferd-Moore

Posted in