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Dr. Robert Dunlop meets with the WCVM’s first class of veterinary students in September 1965. Photo: U of S Archives (A-4466).

"Vet college of the West" decades in making

When the Western College of Veterinary Medicine's first class of 33 students met for the first time in September 1965, it was the fulfilment of a dream that was decades in the making.

The notion of a western Canadian veterinary college first captured the imagination of veterinarians, livestock producers, government officials and university administrators in the 1920s.

But their enthusiasm evaporated once the Depression set in, and the idea was shelved until the mid-1940s when the need for more veterinarians in Western Canada became critical.

The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association particularly helped to spark public debate by creating a series of radio interviews and a speakers' bureau whose members extolled the benefits of a veterinary college during the late 1950s.

Another vital development was the Western Canadian Veterinary Study Committee that produced a detailed report in 1959.

Not everyone supported the idea: some believed that the Ontario Veterinary College could continue supplying future veterinarians for Western Canada at much less cost.

Location was another contentious point. Provincial governments were reluctant to financially support a college based in another province, but in turn, no single province was willing to shoulder the college's estimated $2.5-million price tag for construction.

Things came to a head in May 1963. The Saskatchewan government offered to construct the college if other western provinces agreed to two conditions: building the college in Saskatoon and sharing the college's operating costs. Saskatchewan also asked the federal government to make a substantial contribution to capital costs.

In June 1963, the federal government offered to pay 25 per cent of the college's construction costs to a maximum of $625,000. Two months later, a committee representing all four provincial universities chose the U of S as home base for the veterinary college.

The dream of building a veterinary college in Western Canada was on its way to becoming a reality.

Visit www.usask.ca/wcvm/fifty-years
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