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UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE
50 YEARS, 50 VOICES
DR. VAN CHRISTOU
50 YEARS, 50 VOICES
Dr. Van Christou
Van was born and raised in Lethbridge where had a career as an orthodontist. He was an ardent lobbyist for the establishment of Alberta’s third university in Lethbridge while on the Senate for the University of Calgary in 1965. His great interest in architecture led him to invite Arthur Erickson to Lethbridge to consider designing the University which led to his eventual hiring as the Master Architect. Van was appointed to the University’s first Board of Governors and held that position from 1967 to 1973 and he was the University Chancellor from 1975 to 1979. In 2002, the Helen Christou Gallery was opened in honour of the Christous' enduring commitment to the University and their interest and support of its art collection.
Van discusses the work that he undertook to encourage the provincial government to establish Alberta’s third university in Lethbridge.
The full audio interview will be made available online in late 2017. For more information please contact the University of Lethbridge Archives. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(JT: Jim Tagg, Interviewer)
VC: I was chairman of the Education Committee of the Chamber of Commerce during that time. I think that’s the reason that Kate Andrews asked me to do this fundraiser for the College (Lethbridge Junior College). And the tough job was to talk the business community into supporting the idea of a university. So, I did a lot of research on my own and researched various colleges and universities in North America in small cities and what sort of an income they might bring. I didn’t think I could sell it to them on the basis of culture or education. I thought maybe economics might be the approach, so I got this information and came up with a figure of perhaps getting the university here could bring in as much as five and a half or six million dollars a year to the community. And on that basis, the Chamber bought the idea and supported our doing a demographic study of the province in terms of university attendance from various parts of the province. And that was the basis for our ... we had to convince the Cabinet that a third university ... Calgary had been chartered by then, that a third university was a possibility for the province.
JT: How many ... do you remember any of the details on that demographic study?
VC: Yeah, this may not be perfectly accurate but I recall that it showed that a much higher percentage of grade 12 graduates from Edmonton attended the university than from Calgary, twice as many. And I think it was 50 percent of graduates from grade 12 in Edmonton attended, 25 percent attend from Calgary and I think it was seven or eight percent from Lethbridge. Showing that the farther away from the university you got the attendance dropped off very markedly. And that that was an unfair situation for students from Southern Alberta. And that was the basis for our being able to convince the Cabinet that a third university was viable.