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Hundreds of people gathered outside WCVM for its grand opening on July 2, 1969. Photo: U of S Archives (A-4230).

Home sweet home for new vet college

By September 1965, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) had its first class of veterinary students, its first faculty members and its first dean — but it was still waiting for its own permanent building at the University of Saskatchewan.

During the new college's construction, veterinary students and faculty "made do" by taking their classes and labs in various spaces across campus. Temporary spots included the new Interim Housing Unit, the J.S. Fulton Laboratory and the old Veterinary Hygiene building that was hastily re-converted into a barn and clinical facility.

In the meantime, a brand new building was slowly taking shape on the northeast side of the university campus. To come up with its design, the Regina-based architect firm of Izumi, Arnott and Sugiyama worked closely with the college's founding dean, Dr. D.L.T. (Larry) Smith, and a core group of veterinary faculty.

One faculty member in particular possessed a flair for design and construction. Dr. N. Ole Nielsen, an associate professor of veterinary pathology, became chair of the college's building committee. He worked closely with architect Ross Johnstone and Jim Wedgwood of the U of S to design a multi-functional building that could accommodate small animal and large animal clinics, laboratories, animal handling and research.

The new college also contained some unique design features: an open-ceiling, two-storey library and herbarium as well as round tower parapets that concealed stairwells and an elevator.

After three years of construction, crews completed the building's first phase in 1968 at a cost of $8.2 million (a second phase was completed in 1980). One year later, the WCVM celebrated its grand opening on July 2, 1969, in conjunction with the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association's annual convention. Among the event's speakers: the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker who had begun his new role as university chancellor on the previous day.

At long last, Western Canada's veterinary college had a home.

Source: WCVM: The First Decade and More by Christopher H. Bigland. Visit usask.ca/wcvm/fifty-years to learn more about the WCVM's 50th anniversary celebrations.  
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