Acadia, Above the Rest

Looking back over the last 175 years, Acadia has stood above the rest many times as an institutional and community leader, helping to shape students’ lives and discourse on higher education across the country.

“Acadia has never had the feeling that education belonged to the elite,” says Barry Moody (‘67), retired professor and former head of Acadia’s Department of History. “Education is and should be for everyone.” 

This concept has shaped Acadia’s philosophy, from its humble beginnings to present day, and underscored the University’s unique role as a post-secondary school. Here are just some of the ways Acadia has been ahead of the rest throughout her 175-year history.

No religious discrimination

In 1838, when Edmund Crawley was denied a professorship at Dalhousie for not being a Presbyterian, he mobilized Nova Scotia Baptists to establish a college where there would be no religious discrimination against faculty or students. This was a courageous proposal, but Acadia's founding successfully overcame the prevailing religious prejudice of the times.

Building without money

With a growing college, more facilities were needed. How could this to be done with no money? Professor Isaac Chipman traveled throughout the Maritimes to request donations of not only money, but glass, nails, paint and other building materials to build College Hall (the first University Hall). Unconventional, but it worked! College Hall opened in 1843.

A practical education

“In the 1840s, universities provided classical education to primarily upper-class students,” Moody says. However, Acadia students were farmers, fisherman or lumbermen – from families for whom a university education was too expensive. Acadia wanted to depart from the norm and provide an opportunity for personal advancement in a practical sense. Courses such as “agricultural chemistry” and “navigation” were added to the curriculum, setting the path for specialized studies. Acadia’s first Bachelor of Arts was granted in 1843. “The Acadia BA is thus one of the oldest continuing undergraduate degrees in Canada,” Moody notes.

Clara Belle Marshall Raymond

In 1884, Clara Belle Marshall Raymond graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. This was a monumental accomplishment, for not only was she the first woman to graduate from Acadia, but also one of the earliest females to graduate in the British Empire.

Lectures on Canadian Literature

In 1915, Dr. John Logan delivered a series of lectures on Canadian Literature at Acadia. This was the first of its kind ever delivered at a Canadian University. Logan became a special lecturer in Canadian Literature without salary at Acadia and the Toronto Globe is said to have called his appointment "an innovation of national importance."

Travelling library

Acadia is credited with creating the first travelling library in the Maritimes. In the late 1920s, students from the manual training program at Acadia modified a truck to deliver books to communities throughout the Valley. According to Rural Library Service in Nova Scotia, “In the summers of 1930 and 1931 AcadiaUniversity operated two bookmobiles - one in NS and the other in NB and PEI. Each carried 1,500 books and stopped at 80 to 90 stations eight times during a summer. Because of the bad road conditions, service in winter was provided by mail. The cost was $1.50 per year.”

“This may be,” suggests University Archivist Pat Townsend, “the foundation of the Annapolis Valley Regional Library.” Because of the Depression, however, service ceased in 1931. 

Government funding

Watson Kirkconnell, in the 1950s, was one of the first to approach government for university subsidies. “Dr. Kirkconnell,” writes Roger Prentice (’69) “was in the vanguard of university presidents in presenting the universities’ financial needs to the federal and provincial governments. This changed university funding for all universities.” The government saw financial support for post-secondary education as the next step in civic and social development. Because of this, university enrolment across Canada increased significantly.

Acadia Advantage

The Acadia Advantage program was initiated in 1996. It integrated the use of notebook computers into the curriculum and featured innovations in teaching. By 2000, all full-time, undergraduate Acadia students were involved. Because of its pioneering efforts, Acadia has won several prestigious awards and is the only Canadian university selected as a Laureate in the Education and Academia category of the Computerworld Smithsonian Awards.

Alcohol awareness leadership

Acadia joined the National College Health Improvement Plan (NCHIP), an American learning collaborative initiative, in May 2011. Acadia was the first university in Canada to do so and since then has built an evolving student-centered environment of personal responsibility for alcohol. Darren Kruisselbrink, kinesiology professor and member of Acadia’s NCHIP committee says, “this gives the students the tools to make good decisions in their social lives and to be leaders for change as we continue to move toward an environment of responsible alcohol consumption on campus.”

Academic All-Canadians

Acadia holds more conference and national championships than any other university in Atlantic Canada and has the highest number of Academic All-Canadians for primarily undergraduate universities in the country. Academic All-Canadians are varsity athletes who achieve an academic standing of at least 80 per cent. Eric Cederberg (‘94), Manager of Events and Communications for Athletics says, “Acadia's remarkable total is because we recruit student-athletes not athletes.”

And what better way to conclude than with a rousing rendition of Stand Up and Cheer? Here we go!

"Stand up and cheer

Stand up and cheer for old Acadia!

For today, we raise...The red and blue above the rest,

Our teams are fighting, and they're out to win the fray

We've got the steam! BOOM BOOM!

We've got the team! BOOM BOOM!

For this is old Acadia's day!"

With special thanks to author Laura Churchill Duke (’98) for this article, which appears in the Fall 2013 Bulletin.