The University of Lethbridge’s golden anniversary is taking on a ‘wee’ brightly coloured hue this week with the unveiling of the official U of L tartan. In the spring of 2016, a call was put out to students, staff, faculty, alumni and retirees to submit their design for what would become the University’s official tartan. After all of the entries were reviewed it came down to four finalists. Staff member and alumna Sarah Hilliard (BA ’10), was awarded the golden go-ahead for her design.
Sarah says her design represents the feeling she experienced walking up the hill during her convocation ceremony with her fellow graduates.
“It wasn’t until I looked around during convocation that I fully realized what we had all accomplished,” says Sarah. “Now as a staff member, I recognize that look in the graduates' faces as I see them for the last time before they go off and do great things with what they learned during their time here at the U of L.”
One of those graduates is Garrett Bishoff (BA ’16) who convocated in the spring. Garrett’s design was chosen as the winning student design and was awarded a cash prize from the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union.
The idea behind creating a university tartan was a long time in the making for resident tartan expert, Steve Firth (BA ’14, MA ’16). You may have seen Steve around campus over the past few years championing the charity, Kilt-Up 4 Cancer. Steve wore a kilt every day for close to 600 days in support of men’s cancer awareness and given his heritage, has become the go-to-guy for all things tartan throughout the design and selection processes.
“Tartan has such a rich and long history,” says Steve. “It is a symbol of enlightenment and overcoming adversity. It represents a connection to history and an ethos looking forward, which is fitting for the U of L’s 50th year.”
Thanks to Steve’s connections and participation in the Kilt-Up 4 Cancer charity, he was able to pass along a substantial registration fee waiver with the Scottish Tartans Authority and negotiated the use of the Croft Weaver program with the Scottish Tartans Authority, which entrants used to design their submissions.
The process of officially registering the tartan with the Scottish Tartans Authority began in July of 2016, with the official certificate arriving just in time for Founders’ Day Weekend. University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mike Mahon says developing an official tartan is a significant way to mark the 50-year history of the University.
“The tartan is a symbol of the great and bright things the student will do with the knowledge gained here at the U of L, and it will now be part of our legacy going forward,” says Mike.
The tartan will also be something that people can take with them thanks to the U of L Bookstore. Tartan bow ties, ties, scarves, sashes and even kilts will be available to order through the bookstore after the unveiling at the Founders’ Day BBQ. These limited edition items are handwoven and have been sewed by world-renowned kilt maker, Paul Henry, in Surrey, U.K.
Sarah says while this is the first time she’s ever designed a textile, the idea formed when she thought about who and what she wanted represented visually in her tartan design.
“The colours of each Faculty are represented as they are in the braids of their academic dress for convocation,” says Sarah. “All of the colours come together with the bright sunburst against the dark blue of the U of L field and these colours are framed by the colour red which honours the name Sacred Buffalo Stone (Iniskim) as given by Blackfoot Elder, Bruce Wolf Child.”
As a staff member providing administrative support in the Faculty of Fine Arts, an alumna and passionate contributor to the arts, Sarah embodies so much of what it means to be a shining member of the U of L community.
“The U of L has been such a big part of my life. I was able to discover my passions here, I forged life-long relationships here, I even got married here,” exclaims Sarah. “Being able to have my design become a part of U of L’s legacy is an incredible feeling and one I’m humbled to have.”