Huron College, also known as Huron University College, is one of the three affiliate university colleges to the Western University in the city of London, Ontario. In addition, it is also practically the founding college of the University of Western Ontario upon its inception (the name change to Western University has come in recent years). While its original purpose was toward the study of theology, Huron College has branched out from the training of priests to being a watchword in liberal arts education, with a dedication toward small class sizes, highly rated faculty, and a more individual sense of attention than students receive on the main Western campus.
Huron College’s history begins in 1857. The growth of both population and industry in southwestern Ontario had led the Anglican Church of Canada to create a new diocese, the Diocese of Huron. Since 1839, the area on the Ontario peninsula between Lake Huron and Lake Erie had been part of the Diocese of Toronto, but times were changing and the creation of the Diocese of Huron in 1857 generated new needs. Among these needs were trained, qualified clergymen to fulfill the various positions in churches throughout the Diocese.
Bishop Benjamin Cronyn, the founding Bishop for the Diocese of Huron, would go on to open over 100 churches during his reign and the need for trained men of God never ceased. There existed in the city of Toronto a school of theology at Trinity College, but Bishop Cronyn was deeply unhappy with the quality of clergymen that school produced. He felt that Trinity College produced men who were too steeped in the “high church” tradition that in a sense combined Anglican and Catholic doctrine. Bishop Cronyn wanted men trained in a much more populist, “low church” tradition – men of God and of the people, as it were – and this led him to explore opening his own school of theology to train men as he saw fit.
In 1861, the Privy Council of the U.K. (then the highest court of appeal for the colonies, including Canada) reached a decision in the case Long v. Gray. Without going over the gory details, Long v. Grey (and a similar case, Colenso v. Gray (1866)), established that Anglican churches and church organizations in self-governing colonies of the British Empire were themselves self-governing colonies, and were thus free of the influence of both he Church of England and the British Crown. The Anglican Church of Canada, and the individual Dioceses, thus found themselves in the position where they could implement new programs and projects without having to go at length to seek the approval of both Church and State in far-off England. Bishop Cronyn, seizing the opportunity, presented his case before the Synod (the church’s legislative body) in 1862.
Of course, founding a new school requires money and other resources, which in the latter days of the 19th Century meant reaching out to Britain to find backers. To this end, Bishop Cronyn enlisted the help of Dr. Isaac Hellmuth, recently of the Colonial and Continental Church Society, to track down the necessary money and resources from his contacts across the Atlantic. Named Principal of the yet-unestablished Huron College in September of 1862, Dr. Hellmuth got to work. In Alfred Peache he found a wealthy clergyman who was willing to put up 5000 Pounds as an endowment for the Peache Chair in Divinity; the gift paid Dr. Hellmuth’s salary for many years. The condition attached to this endowment was that Huron College was to be “avowedly for the training of students in the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Articles of the Church.” For a long period of time the Huron College Principal was also required to be the Peache Chair; that restriction was lifted after the Second World War but the Peache Chair can still be found, now the Peache Professor of Divinity, in Huron College’s Faculty of Theology.
With the money and the purpose in place, the path was forged for Bishop Cronyn and Dr. Hellmuth to get their college founded. On May 5th, 1863, legislation titled An Act To Incorporate Huron College was given Royal Assent and became the founding document of Huron College. The Corporation of Huron College would consist of the Bishop of Huron, and a council of at least three; the first council was appointed by Bishop Cronyn. Months later, on December 2nd, 1863, Huron College was officially opened; 400 people attended the opening ceremonies and the two-hour inaugural address was delivered by C.P. McIlvaine, the Bishop of Ohio. Classes began a month later, on January 9th, 1864. In order to qualify for admission into Huron College, prospective students were tested on Greek and Latin grammar, as well as arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. Once students passed their qualifying exams, they were required to sign a document stating that they would study with due diligence and follow all the laws of the College. Tuition, at the time of Huron College’s foundation, was $40 for the year; one would be hard-pressed to find parking there for that price today. That $40 covered classes, as well as room, winter fuel, and admission to the library. Food, furniture, and the uniform (a black cap and gown) were extra.
The original home for Huron College was at Rough Park, an area bordered by St. George Street, St. James Street, Grosvenor Street, and the Thames River. The 14 acres that originally comprised Huron College were purchased from the estate of local hardware magnate Lionel Ridout for $12,130; in addition, the Principal’s residence was named the Ridout House. Additions were made for student residences, lecture rooms, and spaces for housekeeping staff. This home for Huron College would last until 1951, when the new Huron College grounds were dedicated.
Once they’d gotten the knack of running a college, the administration of Huron College wanted to try their hand at running a University. In February of 1877, the faculty and alumni of Huron College met to hammer out some plans, and in March of 1878 the province of Ontario formally granted a University charter to The Western University of London, Ontario. As a founding college of The Western University, Huron College merged their finances with the University and moved everything down to Dufferin College, which had been until then Hellmuth Boy’s College. Their incorporation into being a University expanded the program offered to students from being strictly that of theology to including a liberal arts education. Classes at The Western University began in October of 1881.
The beginning of Huron College’s affiliation was rocky. When the University ran out of money to maintain the Faculty of Arts in 1885, Huron stopped being affiliated and considered affiliating with the University of Toronto instead. In 1895, though, the Faculty of Arts was revived and Huron was once again affiliated with the University. Even still, Huron College bore the greatest part of the financial burden for the University; Huron offered its spaces for the arts program and shared its faculty, often free of charge. In 1908, however, the administration of the University passed from the Anglican Church to an administrative board without religious affiliation. This allowed it to qualify for funding from several different levels of government, freeing Huron from the need to spend its operating capital funding two separate enterprises.
During this period of financial trouble Huron College continued to try to expand their operations. Huron College Principal Miller opened Huron College School, a preparatory school for students of good character. It opened in the autumn of 1893 with a great deal of excited buzz; the reality was less extraordinary, though. The prep school only attracted half of the students that they needed to sustain the place, making it an unacceptable burden when Huron College was more or less paying to keep The Western University open. At the same time, the conduct of the prep school’s students came into question, with complaints about them tying up the telephone and interrupting studies to shoot at birds. You can find similar complaints about students on social media today, of course, but it added to the burden that the prep school placed on Huron College. After the end of classes in 1895 Huron paid out the prep school’s headmaster and closed the school.
Into The 20th Century
The transfer of the cost of the University’s administration from the Anglican Church and Huron College to the provincial and municipal government freed up the College to pursue growth and expansion. Having decided that affiliation with the University meant the need to relocate to a position closer to the actual grounds of the University, a major search for adequate new lands was undertaken. The College Council formally heard these wishes in March of 1932 and approved. By Christmas of 1932 that new land had been found. The Huron College Council purchased 41 acres along Western Road that had been until then known as the Magee Property. This property, facing the existing Western University buildings, brought Huron College into the close proximity befitting its affiliation.
The Council’s purchase of the property set them to work to design a new, contemporary campus for Huron College. In May of 1934, O. Roy Moore’s design was shown off to the public with a great deal of hoopla. As it turned out, however, the design was perhaps a bit more over-the-top than Huron could manage at that time. It was the middle of the Great Depression, after all, and $250,000 in 1934 (approximately $4.7 million today) was nothing to sneeze at. Where did all the cost come from? Moore’s design was ambitious, to say the least. It was planned to be three stories tall, with a complete basement, a tower constructed from reinforced concrete, and a Gothic brick façade. Unfortunately, being a religious institution, the provincial and municipal governments of the day were unwilling to fund the expansion, and without a ready source of funding for the design it never saw the light of day. Moore’s second design, released in 1938, was more modest and in line with the times, and is the design that Huron College bears to this day.
Construction of Huron College’s new space began around the time the Second World War broke out and continued sporadically throughout the war years. After 1945 efforts ramped up, and by the middle of 1951 the construction of the campus had been completed. On November 8th, 1951, the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist – still a beautiful sight on the west side of Western Road – was dedicated. The following day, November 9th, Huron College’s new campus was officially opened in an ceremony led by John Lyons, Archbishop of Ontario, which was broadcast across the country. It was reported at the time that 3,000 people attended Archbishop Lyons’ opening ceremonies, with another 2,000 gathered outside because they could not fit into the building.
Education and the Post-War World
Before the Second World War, Ontario had been mired in the Great Depression; education was at a premium and was only really for those who could afford it through family grants or through other independent means of wealth. The end of the Second World War, and the flood of young men returning from war with ideas and expectations, led to a boom in the demand for education in the West. Ontario was certainly no exception. The clamour for new educational programs led to the creation of the Bachelor of Arts degree program at Huron College in 1956. Previous to this, degree programs at Huron were offered in English, French, History, and Philosophy, as well as theological training. The Bachelor of Arts program was highly successful; in 1974 the Faculty of Arts that oversaw the degree program became the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, which today offers a plethora of degree options within the umbrella of Arts and Social Science.
Shortly thereafter, Huron College received a new legislative purpose. On March 27th, 1958, The Huron College Act of 1958 received Royal Assent. This act laid out Huron College as a formal Arts and Theological College and reworked the governing structure into the framework that it operates under today. Out went the old Huron College Council. Replacing it were three institutional governing bodies: the Corporation, the Executive Board, and the Academic Council. Of these, the Executive Board had full power to appoint and dismiss the Huron College Principal and was no longer bound to the decisions of the Peache Trust, which had devolved to Dr. Hellmuth’s old Colonial and Continental Church Society.
Even as the College’s new official mandate changed the operation of the institution, society was waiting to change its daily life as well. On August 27th, 1957 the London Free Press reported that Marianne Chalk of Toronto was the first student to register at Huron College’s brand new women’s residence. Ms. Chalk had been a student at the University of Toronto before transferring to Huron College to complete her arts degree; she was in a class of 12 women, the first such class to ever attend Huron College. The official opening of the women’s residence happened on October 19th, 1963; this was Hellmuth Hall. Helmuth Hall provided on-campus housing for 82 women, plus a full apartment for the Women’s Warden.
The inclusion of women into campus life at Huron College was not entirely smooth; this, in retrospect, was to be expected, given the upheaval of the time and the religious nature of the institution. Two places were especially contentious for this changeover: eating areas and (naturally) sleeping areas. The campus snack bar was, when women first came to Huron College in the late 1950s, entirely run by the students. While this was a shining example of Huron students’ can-do spirit and sense of entrepreneurship, it ran into problems when it was decreed that women could only come into the Snack Bar between 9 and 9:30 PM on weeknights. Furthermore, when this restriction inevitably caused upheaval, the initial idea was to construct a completely separate snack bar just for women. By the early 1960s, mindful of public relations issues and issues of inherent fairness, the administration of Huron College took control of the snack bar and loosened the restrictions on it. That place – called Mary’s Snack Bar – was a Huron College fixture until the early 1990s, when it was replaced by the current Dining Hall. As an aside, when Western’s parking lots are full and you have to park at Huron College instead, Huron’s Dining Hall makes an excellent and convenient place to grab a snack.
In addition to dining issues, the temper of the times led to wrangling over residence issues. Curfews and visiting hours were a major area of concerns for staff and students. Generally speaking, members of the opposite sex were not allowed in a residence unless it was what was termed, for the 1950s and 1960s, Open House. Open House was a designated time when men and women were allowed to visit each other in-residence. Even then, the disparity of experience between men and women was marked. For the first few years Open House at Hellmuth Hall was only held on three Sundays per year, from 12:30 to 5:30 PM. In addition to this, women in the beginning were not allowed to eat meals with men in the Refectory. For the first several years a trolley brought meals to their own dining room, which was located in the basement of Hellmuth Hall. Even as the general liberalization of social mores occurred over the course of the next few decades, the religious origins of Huron College lingered. Huron residences did not become co-ed until 1998.
Huron College In The 21st Century
The growth of Huron College has followed suit alongside that of Western University. The name Huron College was officially expanded to Huron University College in 2000, to better represent their perceived position with regard to the University system as a whole. Today they offer classes to 1300 students, embedded into the overall system of Western University. Most of those students are enrolled in a degree program in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, but Huron still maintains the Faculty of Theology, fulfilling its original mandate to provide a well-rounded theological education to the future clergy of the Anglican Church.
Every degree program offered at Huron is interesting in its own right, but there are three that should be highlighted in order to demonstrate the academic achievements inherent in a Huron College education. In 2008 the Macleans University Student issue found Huron College ranked at the very top for supportive campus environment, as well as overall student experience. That experience is based on their involvement and engagement with the specialized degree offerings Huron has, of which the following are arguably the most interesting.
Cutting Edge Learning
The Centre For Global Studies is really an umbrella heading for five separate degree streams: Globalization Studies, Global Development Studies, Global Culture Studies, Global Gender Studies, and Global Health Studies. These are designed to be five entry points for studies of global relations: “those that lead to understanding and addressing global inequalities; those that explore the global interrelations and conflicts of communities and their respective interests; those that reflect on the ideas and cultural expressions that structure the global; those that investigate the establishment and experience of gender within the global; and those that generate a broad perspective on issues relating to global health.”
The Centre For Global Studies shies away from being a typical academic department such that you would find at any other University. The emphasis for the Centre is on being a site for interdisciplinary studies and critical engagement. Its philosophy is that there’s one world, and the way in which we approach out understanding of that world will colour our perceptions of it, and affect the data that we gather from it. So it’s not just an amalgamation of politics, economics, history, society, culture, religion, ethnicity, and geography (although it is that), but it’s also a program that aims to get students to critically understand why they gather the data and form the ideas that they do. Learning about the globe is here both macro and micro: it involves learning about the globe, yes, but it also involves learning about the self, and, importantly, how the two interact. The Centre provides this through rigorous application of personally relevant material, strong training in academic research methods, and learning opportunities that reach outside the University and across the disciplinary aisle.
Huron College’s new major in Governance, Leadership, and Ethics is also a highly interesting, cutting-edge new degree program. An offshoot of the Political Science department of the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, the program in Governance, Leadership, and Ethics is meant to allow students to understand the full scope of issues and challenges that are inherent in modern global governance. Part of this is learning to develop the sort of knowledge and skills to provide global-level leadership in a way that is inclusive, accountable, and effective.
Like the Centre for Global Studies, the degree in Governance, Leadership, and Ethics is an interdisciplinary program that combines aspects of Political Science, Management & Organizational Studies, History, and Philosophy. Students are introduced to theories and models of governance in the modern global environment, and get a chance to view how those theories are practically implemented in both public and private settings in a variety of settings. Students are also shown theories behind principled leadership; this involves the process flow of making decisions and evaluating the effect of those decisions, including aspects of power, influence, the roles of followers, and the mitigating influences of citizenship. The degree program is finished with a final-year project that involves a major research component, which could take the form of a reading course, thesis, or even a community engagement project finalized with a written report.
Huron’s department of Management And Organizational Studies is somewhat similar to programs offered at other Universities (including at the main Western University campus itself). The Huron difference, though, is the combination of focused degree paths with a push toward experiential and community-based learning opportunities. So while students will organize into typical degree paths (Accounting, Finance and Administration, Organizational Studies, Policy and Ethics, and Management and Organizational Studies), their classroom studies are embedded into a real-life learning system that prepares them for real-world scenarios. Included in this is a requirement to understand the statistics that underlie decision-making paths and organizations, as well as an understanding of how business and government interact and interrelate from a policy perspective.
Besides the cutting-edge 21st Century course design in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, of course, there is the Faculty of Theology, still going as strongly today as it was when the College was first founded. One difference, though, is that the Faculty of Theology is no longer solely for the training of clergypersons. The Faculty itself states that “even if you’re not religious yourself, studying religion can help you understand the complex world we live in – since only 16% of the global population is religiously unaffiliated.” To this end, the Faculty of Theology has a major in Religion & Theology with focused paths that move beyond the Anglican Protestant roots of the College into the various popular religions of the world. For those wishing to go further and integrate their skills and knowledge with religious administration, Huron College offers a Masters degree in Theological Studies, with concentrations in Biblical Studies, Ethics, Comparative Religion, Congregational Ministry, Pastoral Advising, and Public Service.
For those who wish to follow the original path laid out by the College’s founders, Huron College still offers the Master of Divinity degree path. This program prepares the enrolled student for life as a minister, specifically in the Anglican Church, although they will accept students from any denominational background looking to be educated in the details of the Anglican faith. In keeping with this inclusive ideal, and with the global focus from the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, one of the requirements of the Master of Divinity program is a Transcultural Learning Experience. This out-in-the-community educational experience has taken students all over the globe, and Huron College makes a point of mentioning that there is funding available for travel and accommodation, where it may be necessary for the individual student. The Transcultural Learning Experience gives the student of theology access to the lived experience of the community they wish to integrate in, it exposes them to different expressions of faith, community, and worship than their own, and it gives the student some global context to bring into their own ministry with regard to themselves and their congregation.
In addition to undergraduate and graduate level degree programs in the Faculty of Theology, the faculty also operate the Centre For Public Theology, a university research centre established through a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant for small universities. The Centre For Public Theology aims to “promote research and reflection,” and to connect the philosophy and spiritual thinking inherent in the Faculty of Theology to public life in the Canadian community. It is in a sense a foundation dedicated to applied theology.
Huron College is the oldest post-secondary institution in London, Ontario, beating out the formation of Western University by several years. Beginning as an institution dedicated specifically to the study of Anglican theology, the addition of a Faculty of Arts led to a period of strength and sustained growth. That growth led the administration of Huron College to try their hand at opening a university, paving the way for the University of Western Ontario (now known as Western University). Today the College offers spaces for 1200 students, priding themselves on providing a small instructor-to-student ratio for a more enriched educational experience. In addition to the Faculty of Theology, operating under a similar mandate to the original vision of the College, the Faculty of Arts and Social Science offers a well-rounded liberal arts education. With an emphasis on applying real-world knowledge to the global environment, Huron College focuses on cutting-edge educational delivery to combine the latest theories with practical applications.