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50 things you didn't know about Centennial College

Centennial College turns 50 years young this month! We've had a long, colourful history, and we've been celebrating it with a number of different events across all of our campuses. Becoming a student here means becoming part of a vibrant international community. It's important that you know what kind of community you're joining, so here's the first half of 50 facts about our history, connections, buildings and people.

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Some statistics

1. We call ourselves "Ontario's First College" for a reason. We're the oldest publicly-funded college in Ontario.

2. We are a diverse college. Almost 100 ethno-cultural groups are represented on our campus, and 80 languages are spoken.

3. Centennial College operates the country's largest transportation training facility, with more than $30 million worth of aircraft, vehicles and equipment onsite.

4. We were here first, so we're the first Ontario college to hit the 50-year mark, which we celebrated with a series of special events, including Paint the Town Green, an ambitious campaign that saw the college close for one day to enable thousands of students, faculty and staff to fan out across the city and lend a hand with community initiatives, such as planting trees, rejuvenating community resources, and cleaning beaches, among many other volunteer tasks.

5. Since our very first convocation in the 1967, some 2,000,000 learners have graduated from the Ontario college system.

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Celebrities and Media

6. The TV show Degrassi High was filmed at the Story Arts Centre in 1989, before the East York Campus was renovated.

7. Several other movies were filmed at our campuses, including the 2014 Robocop remake, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Man of the Year with the late Robin Williams, and an American Pie film.

8. When Resident Evil: Apocalypse was filmed in 2003 at our old Warden Woods campus, it made use of our Hospitality Management Centre kitchen, dining room and gymnasium. A wood and styrofoam duplicate of that kitchen was then created, just so it could be blown up at the end of the scene!

9. The late comedic actor John Candy is counted among the college's distinguished former students.

10. Ernie Coombs, better known as CBC Television's Mr. Dressup, had a personal connection to Centennial's groundbreaking Early Childhood Education program (ECE). His wife, Lynn, was a member of the program's advisory board, and her own child care centre in Scarborough provided Centennial students with rewarding field placements. Their daughter, Catherine, graduated from the Early Childhood Assistant program in 1984.

11. Today, students can receive the Lynn Coombs Memorial Award, a Centennial College scholarship given to a student of the full- or part-time ECE programs each year.

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Activism and Social Good

12. In November 1966, Centennial College's students marched on Queen's Park for the first time. They weren't there to protest, though. Instead, they came to thank Ontario Education Minister William Davis for opening Centennial College.

13. With the Cold War still on, Centennial College participated in a groundbreaking show of peace in 1973 when a group of Russian students arrived for a formal visit.

14. Sometimes, we've directly helped with a bad economic situation, like when General Motors announced it would close its massive van assembly plant near Ashtonbee Campus and lay off 2,700 workers. We stepped in and teamed up with GM and the Canadian Auto Workers Union to help GM Canada employees land on their feet and develop new career skills, with something called the "labour adjustment" initiative. 257 GM employees enrolled in part-time courses at our Ashtonbee campus in 1992 as a result, with more to follow.

15. Our current method of teaching, established in 2008, is called the Signature Learning Experience. It sets us apart from other post-secondary institutions in the GTA, because it builds your understanding of diversity, equity and social justice issue and gives you the cultural competency to prepare you for a changing global environment and workplace.

16. The SLE also led to the creation of Centennial's Global Citizenship and Equity Learning Experiences (GCELEs), to give students the opportunity to travel overseas and broaden their horizons on global social issues.

17. Speaking of global social issues, Centennial was the second postsecondary institution in Canada to join the United Nations Scholars at Risk Network, which supports international scholars whose work is threatened by displacement, discrimination, censorship and harassment, by allowing them to continue their work in a safe learning environment in Canada.

18. We don't just bring in diverse students. We take our education to the global stage. In 2006, we partnered with schools in mainland China, India and elsewhere to make the Canadian college experience readily accessible to international visa students.

19. Noticed the unique street lamps around Progress Campus? They actually rely on a combination of wind and solar power, and stay totally off the electrical grid. They were created when Clear Blue Technologies partnered with Centennial's Energy Institute faculty and students to develop small, renewable energy systems.

20. We're a green school for a reason. In 2011, we opened the new Library and Academic Facility at Progress Campus, taking a big step towards reducingits carbon footprint. In addition to providing a much-needed new library to facilitate students researching and studying, the LEED Gold-certified building is an on-site teaching tool for the School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science. The new addition also provided 22 classrooms, a large lecture theatre, an art gallery and more communal space for the benefit of students.

21. The building also contains a four-storey Living Wall biofilter (a.k.a that giant wall of plants) that purifies and humidifies indoor air to create a healthier and more comfortable indoor environment, as well as minimize heating and cooling costs.


Campus Culture

22. A popular annual event at our School of Community and Health Studies is our disaster simulation, which tests the skills our emergency and health care students with a new scenario every year. Our first one took place in 2005, and involved Toronto's HUSAR (Heavy Urban Search and Rescue) team. Here's the details from our most recent disaster simulation event.

23. Every winter for a few years now, Centennial's Environmental Student Society has been creating an outdoor natural ice rink in Morningside Park, just south of Morningside Campus, with the support of the CCSAI, City of Toronto, Princess Auto and the local Home Depot store. International students are invited to try ice skating for the first time, with 50 pairs of skates available for loan.

24. Before our current residence at Progress Campus opened, students used to live in a hotel! We purchased the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel Toronto across the street in 2001 to serve as our residence, before building a new one. It even had an indoor pool!

25. Our current Student Centre at Progress Campus opened in November of 2000. It's owned and operated by the Centennial College Student Association Inc. It even picked up an award for architecture in 2002!

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26. The name "Centennial" comes from the fact that the school was named in anticipation of Canada's Centennial year, 1967.

27. The college opened barely one year after the community college system was created by the Ministry of Education in 1965. At first, people weren't even sure the school would be ready to open on time.

28. The college campus itself was established, renovated and opened in four months and 12 days, on October 17, 1966.

29. Warden Woods campus, our first site, began its life as a military factory, the radar division of Canadian Arsenals Ltd.

30. That first year at Centennial College, tuition for our most expensive courses was $190, plus a $10 activity fee.

31. During our first year at Warden Woods, some lectures had to be held in the cafeteria, since the lecture hall wasn't even complete.

32. Our early faculty had to do multiple jobs, including Journalism teachers acting as student councillors, Architecture profs drawing up plans for a new dining hall, and an Electronics instructor doing some of the schools' electrical repairs.

33. Construction at Warden Woods was still ongoing during the first six months of operation, and teachers had to contend with the sounds of "power saws and jackhammers" and the lights periodically going out.

34. Also unfinished that first year: Our library, which opened with barely 1,000 available books. We even approached other schools to loan us parts of their collection!

35. A long time before the Observer existed, Centennial's first student newspaper was called the Arsenal, established on March 22, 1967. The issues of the day? "Dope, sexual permissiveness, and making love, not war." The community-oriented Observer would be established in March of 1972.

36. Our first graduating class consisted of only 14 students, since one of our early programs, Secretarial Science, was only eight months long.

37. Even in the beginning, we were dedicated to making career connections. Every one of those of the 14 graduates had at least one job offer by the time they graduated.

38. Our first orientation, held in the College's second year, featured a school dance that students could get into for 25 cents per person, or 35 cents for a couple. How the times have changed!

39. Our first athletic activities were in 1967, when we'd rent out high school gyms for volleyball and basketball. Fortunately, we began building a gym later that year.

40. Our first Alumni Homecoming happened on our tenth anniversary, in 1976.

41. Our first campus radio station was called CKCC, and it operated our of a professional studio at Warden Woods Campus.

42. By 1984, desktop computers were becoming commonplace on Centennial's campuses, and JANET-Micronet labs allowed students access to networked IBM computers. The college purchased an IBM 4381 mainframe computer in 1985 at a cost of more than $600,000 to run these networks, at a time when tape drives were still the preferred means of data storage.

43. Our current president, Ann Buller, is the sixth one in the College's history, and assumed the role in 2004, though she first worked for us all the way back in 1989, when she made high school visits to talk about Centennial College.

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The buildings we learn in

44. Our second campus was established in 1968, when we bought a former auto service facility from Volkswagen Canada, and made it into what would become our Ashtonbee campus

45. Our third major campus, Progress, opened in 1977, and our fourth, East York, in 1979.

46. Before the current School of Hospitality building opened, our original Hospitality Management Centre opened in 1985. Like our current one, it featured a fully licensed restaurant, open for the public to enjoy, and for students to learn in.

47. Our Centre of Entrepreneurship first opened in 1988, thanks to a boom in small business in the 1980's. We were the only college to receive its own centre without a university partner. The Centre of Entrepreneurship remains in operation to this day, serving small businesses throughout the GTA.

48. We finally bid farewell to our original Warden Woods campus in 2004, with a humungous barbecue and party. The property was sold to a townhouse developer.

49. We just opened our new Residence and Culinary Arts Centre at Progress Campus this year, an eight storey building that houses students, and is the home of the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, complete with seven kitchen labs, eight new classrooms, a teaching restaurant and a conference and events centre located on the top floor.

50. In 2018, Centennial College will open a new campus focused on aviation, aerospace training and research at the former de Havilland aircraft manufacturing site at Downsview Park.

[Minh Nguyen]

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