A Brief Review of Ryerson History

Are you ready for a quick lesson in Ryerson history? 


Ryerson is named after Egerton Ryerson — Ontario’s first Superintendent of Education. Founded in 1948, the Ryerson Institute of Technology was created as an experiment in postsecondary education when there was a need for skilled tradespeople after World War II. As an alternative to the traditional apprenticeship of technical learning, this school was used as a training ground for the ever-growing workforce due to the booming post-war economy. That first year, approximately 250 students enrolled. Ryerson was moved to St. James Square where it established Ontario’s first teacher-training facility, museum, art school and agricultural lab. As a result, Ryerson’s undertakings ended up influencing many scientific and cultural developments throughout the province. Additionally, St. James Square became known as Ontario’s “cradle of education.

Later, with the help of Howard Kerr, Ryerson’s curriculum matured into humanities and management skills, which still distinguish Ryerson from other universities today. 

Modernization Program

To further accommodate Ryerson’s rapid growth, a multi-million dollar modernization program launched in the late 1950’s. This led to an expansion with a name change to Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, and an appointment of a board of governors, in 1963-1964.

Years later, three important developments stem from wide-ranging recommendations, leading to:

  1. A more open and experimental approach to teaching. 
  2. The authority to grant degrees.
  3. A building program with new facilities for classes, student and administrative services, as well as learning resources and technology.

As renovation and construction of buildings continued, state-of-the-art equipment was also added. The ability to grant degrees gave Ryerson a new purpose and direction, and Community Services was established. This brought three nursing schools, day and evening programs, along with many new ventures and important initiatives such as:

  • Academic Computing Information Centre
  • Office of Research and Innovation
  • Rogers Communications Centre
  • Ryerson Engineering programs
  • Advanced Technology Education 

University Status

Ryerson gains full university status in 1993, which provides the necessary funding to establish graduate programs alongside ultimate conduct research. In 2002, Ryerson’s name was changed to Ryerson University in order to reflect its full-fledged university standing — approved by the provincial government. 

Today, Ryerson continues to establish more graduate programs and research centres. New additions and structures such as the Ronald D. Besse Information and Learning Commons are bettering their campus to accommodate Ryerson’s ever-growing student population. However, even as we see Ryerson’s ability to evolve, its mission is still the same as it was in 1948: 

“Provide leadership in career-focused education and to fulfill contemporary societal needs” (Ryerson University).

Published on August 26, 2019

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