One Dominion: Post Secondary Education

Allison-Strachan-McMaster

Our blog series continues with the beginning of our Post Secondary Education System.  The following is an excerpt from the new book “One Dominion“.


Charles Allison and Rev. John Bass Strong 

Ryerson was a product of his Methodist theology, and while his influence was on public school education, other Methodist leaders were the driving force behind post-secondary education. For example, when Methodist merchant, Charles Allison, was encouraged by the Wesleyan Methodist minister, Rev. John Bass Strong, to help establish a school of elementary and higher education, Allison agreed to purchase a site in Sackville, Nova Scotia and donate to the operating fund for ten years. In 1843, the Wesleyan Academy for Boys was opened and in 1862 the degree granting Mount Allison College, now named after its generous benefactor, was opened. When the Methodists became a part of the United Church of Canada in 1925, Mount Allison University became a United Church affiliated University, which it remains to this day. And its motto remains as it has from the beginning: “Litterae, Religio, Scientia: Writing, Divinity, Knowledge.”

Later, the Methodists would establish the University of Regina in Saskatchewan and in partnership with the Presbyterians, the University of Winnipeg. But the Methodists were not the only Christian group keen to invest in higher learning and to ensure that their clergy were well-trained.

John Strachan

John Strachan, Toronto’s first Anglican bishop and contemporary of Ryerson, founded three institutions of higher education: McGill University in Montreal, University of Toronto and Trinity University College, also in Toronto. And at McGill, Dr. Benjamin Davies, a Baptist minister and Hebrew scholar, created the Classics department because he believed that a well-educated clergy was “Canada’s chief asset in establishing a moral climate for a new nation.”

William McMaster

Senator William McMaster became a Christian at age 10 and joined the Baptist Church in Ireland. His family immigrated to Canada where he began to work for his uncle in a dry goods firm.

In 1867, McMaster played a major role in establishing the Canadian Bank of Commerce and was its Director for several years. He ran the firm on biblical principles.

McMaster also put a high value on education and encouraged the professional and ministerial training of Baptists, making a donation of $100,000 for the establishment of Toronto Baptist College. Just before his death in 1887, he was able to get government approval for the uniting of Woodstock College and Toronto Baptist College to become a university. This school would include courses in the arts and theology to provide the broadest education for church leaders. When he died, he left a further $1 million for the development of “a Christian school of learning.” Soon after, the university was renamed McMaster University, and to this day maintains the motto taken from Colossians 1:17, “Ta panta en Christoi synesteken,”which means, “In Christ all things hold together.”

In 1869, Baptist missionaries were sent to southwestern Manitoba, and within two years, the first settlers began arriving in the region.

Both settlers and missionaries saw the need for a Baptist institution in the area, and in 1889, the Baptist Convention of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories established Brandon College in association with McMaster University.

McMaster and Brandon Universities are not the only universities in Canada with Baptist roots. In Nova Scotia, two other denominations had associated schools. Kings College was an Anglican School and Dalhousie University had been established as a non-denominational school but had placed itself under the control and direction of the Church of Scotland. When Dalhousie failed to appoint a prominent Baptist pastor and scholar, Edmund Crawley, to the Chair of Classics in 1831, the Baptists in the Maritimes decided they needed to establish their own school – Queens College. Later, in 1838, Queen’s College and another Baptist Institution, Horton Academy, merged to form Acadia College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. It was established to prepare men for the ministry and educate lay leaders. It became Acadia University in 1891.

There are a number of other schools in Canada, which were started by Christians and church groups that are not covered in this post. The main point is that many were founded by those whose lives had been renewed and changed by the Living Word of God. They expressed their faith through His Church and by investing in the education of others. A life transformed by God has the potential to transform a nation.

* Source: “One Dominion: Celebrating Canada – Prepared for a Purpose“.

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