On September 28, approximately 450 guests convened in Edmonton, Alberta, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The King’s University. Henk Van Andel’s recently published book, A Step at a Time, is a historical overview of the first 25 years of this institution.
In 1979, “what was then known as The King’s College opened with only a handful of professors and a few dozen students,” he describes, “but with a large vision of becoming a full-fledged Christian university, on equal footing with other universities in Canada. Step by step, King’s moved forward to realize that vision.”
Here we are 40 years later. Among the dignitaries present in September were several politicians, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta – Lois Mitchell – and all former presidents of the university: Sidney DeWaal, Henk Van Andel and Harry Fernhout. They enjoyed dinner and live music by the Translators, a folk-rock band based out of the Vancouver area and composed entirely of King’s graduates. In addition, over $50,000 was raised for student scholarships during the evening.
In the school’s early days, students could graduate from King’s with a diploma or certificate, or transfer to the University of Alberta to complete their bachelor’s program. In 1987, King’s was granted the right to offer its first accredited degree: a three-year Bachelor of Arts. That year, for the first time, four students received that degree. In the years that followed, King’s was able to offer Bachelors of Science, Music, Commerce and Education programs with numerous majors and concentrations. Today, it offers over 24 fully accredited programs and has a growing network of over 5,000 alumni around the world. Several King’s professors have been honoured with the 3M National Teaching Fellowship award, a prestigious recognition of excellence in educational leadership and teaching at the university and college level. During the last 15 years, King’s faculty have received dozens of research grants totaling over $4 million. In 2019, King’s was awarded a fourth Canada Research Chair.
While many things have changed since 1979, some things have not. As a recent student blog pointed out, “Dr. Harry Cook was one of the original faculty members, and you can still catch him here on campus enjoying a coffee in The Level [a coffeehouse on campus]. Dr. Peter Mahaffy, Dr. Heather Looy and Dr. Doug Harink have been here for over 29 years! These are only a few examples of the many long-time faculty and staff members at King’s that have helped shape it into the university it is today.”
In honour of King’s 40th anniversary, its Alumni Relations office introduced the first Alumni Achievement Awards. The Accomplished Young Alumni Award was given to Dr. Christa Aubrey (BSc. ‘08); the Servant Leader Award for an individual living out the call of Micah 6:8 was given to Jesse Edgington (BSc,’00); and the Distinguished Alumni Award for a person with a track record of academic excellence and national or international achievement in any field was given to Dr. Robert Greidanus (King’s student ’87-‘89).
In 1979, William Vanden Born was elected Chair of the first Board of Governors. Two of his children were students in that first-year class. “I remember being thrilled and excited at the time of the opening convocation of The King’s University on September 3, 1979,” he said. “As I think back now, I am deeply appreciative of the work done by many people during a number of years before that date and for the willingness of the original faculty members and support staff to become part of this fledgling institution.”
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