Durham College

Durham College in Oshawa was founded six years before Durham Region was founded. So how did Durham College get started?

“The college system was a result of premier William Davis and his government at the time,” says Don Lovisa, resident of Oshawa and president of Durham College. During a speech to the House of Commons on May 21, 1965, the Honourable William G. Davis suggested the operation of a system of colleges.

Davis announced in March the planning and development of the colleges for the following year. This list included Durham County, which included a portion of the area in Oshawa that was eventually to become Durham Region. The county of Durham is the reason that Durham College is called what it is, says Garry Cubitt, chief administrative officer for the Region of Durham.

In September of 1967, the college opened with 16 portable classrooms, 14 staff members, and just over 200 students. This year’s academic calendar offered courses in business, technology, and applied arts. Simcoe building, the original building, was constructed in 1969. Even though it was only supposed to be temporary, it still stands today.

By the college’s 10th anniversary, it was offering health science courses. By then, it had more than 1,000 students.

A decade later, in the 1980s, the school grew even more, with more than 2,000 students enrolled and expanded facilities. In addition to the school’s change, the president also changed. Dr. Gordon Willey was replaced by Mel Garland. Whitby Campus was founded in 1993. Cadbury formerly owned the factory, but it was converted into a skills training facility.

Anthony Doyle, chief of staff in Durham College’s office of the president, says the Whitby campus “has grown into more than just a skills training center…it has become a full service and growing campus.” Another important part of Durham College is the Centre for Food. It is located on the Whitby campus and is a green building.

Durham College eventually formed a partnership with York University and Trent University to offer university-level courses. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology opened next to the college in 2003. Afterwards, a learning site in Pickering opened. The current president, Don Lovisa, has been with the college since 2007, first as vice-president, academic, then as president.

There are several other places where students can be found on campus, including E.P. Taylor’s, the student pub. It is named after Edward Plunket Taylor, a famous businessman and horse breeder whose horses were bred at Windfields Farm, the property immediately north of the Campus Ice Centre. Another building is the Gordon Willey building, named after Dr. Gordon Willey, who served as the college’s first president from 1967 to 1980. Willey was a trade engineer with a specialization in technology, according to the Durham College website.

According to Ferren, Dr. Gordon Willey was the founding president of the college, so he was honoured by namesake buildings.

The Student Services Building (SSB) is another building where students can get help at the college. Before the addition of the SSB in Oshawa, services for students were scattered throughout the campus.

In partnership with UOIT and the City of Oshawa, the school has built the Campus Ice Centre. In addition to housing the women’s and men’s hockey teams of UOIT, it is open to the public. Additionally, the campus library is an important asset to the school because it offers students four floors of quiet study space.

The school is not only a place for students to learn, but it is also a place where graduates make an impact on the community. Graduating from Durham, and their programs, Doyle reports that students get an exceptional education. Lovisa says that the college’s roots are strong and its growth will continue, nearly half a century after its humble beginnings.

According to the campus master plan, the school has undergone numerous changes since 1967. Though Durham College did not receive its name from the region, its history lives on as the school turns 50 next year.

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