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Initial Years of the School
(1916 - 1937)

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My own impression is that we should look forward in the not distant future to some organization corresponding to a School of Commerce of which this might very well form a part.  Commercial Departments in connection with Universities have so far not been successful in Canada, although I believe that after some years now the one at McGill is making some progress.

Dr. Tory, First President of the University of Alberta, January 16, 1919
    In the words of Walter Johns in his A History of the University of Alberta, 1908-1969, “No institution can evolve without a propitious  background of events and circumstances.”  Chapter I of this Chronicle of Commerce – A Brief History of The School of Business at the University of Alberta, is an attempt to provide a context on how the University of Alberta began and, as a result, the eventual creation of the School of Business at the University.  While the University was founded in 1908, the School of Business – originally a Department of Accounting – was not formed until 1916 and, over the past 90 years, has become a major force in management education, not only locally and regionally but also on an international scale as well.  Chapter I will, hopefully, provide a picture of the environment within which the reality of how the School originated.    

    As noted in Dr. Tory’s comments above, the concept of establishing a School of Commerce was being considered but the growth of new programmes was subject to the pressures brought about by the tragedies of World War I, the effect of the Spanish Influenza epidemic and the beginnings of the Great Depression in 1929.  Chapter I, The Initial Years, 1916 – 1929, provides a brief overview of how these catastrophic events affected the University of Alberta and also provides detail germane to the development of Commerce within that milieu.

In a ‘Report of the Faculties’ to the Chancellor and the Senate for 1914-1915, 13 are listed as students under Accounting.  This raises some questions since, in later documents, reference is made to three students.  One interpretation is that the three students would be considered as “graduates” with that designation – the 13 students referred to above would have been students taking Accountancy as a subject within other programmes.  Also of interest is the point that, as noted above, the first Bachelor of Commerce graduates did not convocate until 1923.
An intriguing aspect of the relationship between the University and the Accounting profession is that the University provided this type of service prior to 1916 – considered the “official” beginning of what was to become the School of Commerce.  The sixth Annual Convocation Programme for May 10, 1916, refers to students from a variety of Disciplines: Accounting, Architecture, Dentistry, Land Surveying, Law, Medicine and Pharmacy and provides the following description:

“Since Convocation 1915 the following persons have passed the examinations for License to Practise  conducted by The University on behalf of the Affiliated Professional Societies.”

 While the Convocation Programme is dated May, 1916, all of the individuals who had passed the examinations for Licence to Practice are listed under the dates of either May, 1915, or September, 1915.  The Accountancy Licensees listed in the 1916 Convocation Programme were:
    Broad, S.J.            Norman, H.G.
    Butler, E.B.            Robertson, W.  (Honours)
    McNab, J.C.            Williams, J.H.

In other words, these individuals “convocated” prior to the establishment of the School of Commerce.
    This process continued for the next seven years as outlined below:
     Date of Convocation                  Number of Accountancy Licensees
     May, 1917 – 7th Annual             Two – May, 1916
     May, 1918 – 8th Annual             Five – May, 1917
     May, 1919 – 9th Annual             Seven – May, 1918
     May, 1920 – 10th Annual           Five – May, 1919
     May, 1921 – 11th Annual           Four – May, 1920
     May, 1922 – 12th Annual           Four – May, 1921
     May, 1923 – 13th Annual           Four – December, 1922       
            
The 13th Annual Convocation Programme of May, 1923, listed three individuals who were admitted to the Degree of Bachelor of Commerce:
        Allan, Donald Hendry
        Page, Robert Henry Constant
        Palmer, Max Bayard

These three individuals, therefore, are the original graduates with a specific degree in Commerce.

Of these three degree recipients, alumni records indicate that Donald Hendry Allan passed away in 1989 and Robert Henry Constant Page in 1965.  The records, however, do not provide any information on Max Bayard Palmer.  A year later, the 14th Annual Convocation Programme, May, 1924, indicates that seven individuals were admitted to The Degree of Bachelor of Commerce.


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“A University should be the most practical of all institutions. It should strive to find the answers to the economic and social problems of common everyday people and then share its knowledge with them.”

- Dr. Henry Marshall Tory
June 1908