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Ryerson University’s history is rooted in innovative, career-driven education with the goal of addressing contemporary societal needs. Named after Ontario’s first Superintendent of Education and leading public school advocate, Egerton Ryerson, it began as a postsecondary institute designed to combine technical education with academic theory for the first time.
Pictured: Students gather outside the Gould St. entrance to the Ryerson Institute of Technology, 1948
1940s-1960s: The Early Years
The Ryerson Institute of Technology was established in 1948 in response to the need for skilled tradespeople following the Second World War. Built on the historical site of Ontario’s first teacher training college -- known as the Toronto Normal School -- approximately 250 students enrolled in Ryerson’s first year. The new institute offered theoretical and practical training in various skilled trades such as architecture, costume design and photography. The student newspaper, The Ryersonian, was founded in 1949.
Pictured: Electronics students broadcast the first live television show in Canada for a general audience, 1949
1960s-1980s: A Time of Growth
Following several years of institutional growth, “polytechnic” was added to Ryerson’s title in 1963 to adequately represent its growing range of programs. Ryerson Polytechnic Institute gained degree-granting authority in 1971, and the campus continued to expand with the construction of Lake Devo in 1979. During this time, yearly enrollment at Ryerson exceeded 10,000 students, and the school launched various innovative projects including the Energy Centre and the option to take courses delivered over the radio.
Pictured: Construction of Kerr Hall, early 1960s
1990s-2000s: Official University Status
Proving a commitment to build on its research capacity and academic reach, Ryerson gained official university status in 1993. In the following years, the university began offering graduate and doctoral degree programs and opened the Raymond G. Chang School of Continuing Education. In 2002, Ryerson Polytechnic University shortened its title to Ryerson University, reflecting the school’s rising profile as a full-fledged university with strong academic programming.
Pictured: City councillor Kyle Rae (left) and president Claude Lajeunesse (right) celebrate Ryerson's 50th anniversary, 1998
2010s – present: City Building, Zone Learning and What’s Next
Ryerson University is currently recognized as a leading institution for research and innovation, being ranked the top institution for undergraduate research in Canada in 2014. Within the past decade, the university has launched various research centres and institutes, as well as the Zone Learning option for students and business professionals interested in entrepreneurship.
Ryerson’s location at the heart of downtown Toronto has motivated numerous strategic partnerships with surrounding businesses and spaces. The most significant recent development is the construction of four new Ryerson buildings: the Mattamy Athletic Centre at Toronto’s historic Maple Leaf Gardens, the award-winning Student Learning Centre on Yonge Street, the Ryerson Image Centre on campus and the upcoming Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex.
Pictured: The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) features a translucent, LED-operated exterior wall
Eagle Staff Spiritual Honour
In May 2012, Ryerson became the first Ontario university to be presented with the Eagle Staff, a traditional spiritual instrument that recognizes the school’s effort to cultivate a strong, holistic support system for Aboriginal students. Designed specially for the university and Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services (RASS), the Eagle Staff is present at significant university events such as convocation and remembrance ceremonies.
Blue & Gold Fundraiser Ball
This student-run, semi-formal social event was established in the mid-1950s to raise university funds and celebrate the Ryerson community. The Blue & Gold Ball, commonly referred to as BGB, is currently hosted at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Ernie the Hot Dog Man’s Annual Private Bursary
Chang School graduate and trained electrical engineer Ronald Keith Alexander operated the popular hot dog stand outside of the Ryerson library for 25 years. In 1981, the beloved vendor known as “Ernie” introduced the “Bursary Day” tradition, committing his earnings from that day to a private Ryerson Bursary fund for students in need. Alexander passed away in 2008, but his business continues to operate where it began 33 years ago.