Georgian College held its first classes in a storefront in a Barrie shopping plaza fifty years ago, the same year that Canada held its centennial celebration at Expo 67 and the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Since then the college has expanded all over the region, opening seven campuses and pioneering degree programs in automotive management, interior design, policing and nursing.

The college kicked off its anniversary celebrations in January with a red carpet event and an exhibition at the Barrie campus gallery, followed up by its traditional Pow Wow in March. Celebrations will continue for the rest of the year, culminating in a big campus-wide birthday bash in October.

One of the first colleges created by Ontario minister of education Bill Davis’ Bill 153, Georgian quickly moved from the shopping mall to a new campus in Barrie’s east end. Courses were also offered at satellite campuses in Orillia, Owen Sound and Midland, with new campuses in Muskoka, Orangeville and Collingwood opening by the late ‘70s.

Kelly Pottage, Georgian’s manager of alumni and community development, says that a steering committee has been planning the anniversary celebrations for over a year, with heavy consultation from alumni.“They’re a huge part of anything we do at Georgian. When we first started planning we did a survey to find out from folks to find out the key ways we could be celebrating. We have an alumni executive council with a variety of graduates from different years and they did a survey.”

 The centerpiece of Georgian’s automotive management program is its annual auto show, the largest outdoor student-run event of its kind in North America. Held at the Barrie campus on the weekend of June 2-4, it will also showcase Georgian’s anniversary “Celebration Station,” which was created to take its place at each of the school’s major events as a focal point for the anniversary celebrations.

 “We’ve been taking it to all our signature events,” Pottage says, “so people can come over, they can look at the timeline wall and reflect on the history of the college. We give out a 50th branded cupcake and most importantly all guests, including alumni, can contribute to our time capsule.”

 “We’re also collecting words of wisdom and predictions for the future from the entire Georgian community over the next few months until the anniversary ends. We’re putting it all together in a 50th anniversary time capsule book that will be closed and not reopened for another 25 years.”

 The Celebration Station will also be showing up at the school’s 30th annual charity golf tournament, to be held at The Club at Bond Head on May 25, and at the black tie fundraising gala held on November 10 at Casino Rama.

 They’re major events for Georgian alumni, who are playing a big part in the anniversary celebrations, but the Celebration Station is also moving to each of the seven campuses to involve current students.

 It’s a big year for Georgian, which began its anniversary year with the announcement of confirmed funding for a new $30 million Advanced Technology, Innovation and Research Centre at its Barrie campus. The carbon neutral and LEED-certified building will have room for 800 students to use its labs and facilities and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018. It’s a big new step for the college and a long way from the strip mall on Wellington Street.

Rick McGinnis – Simcoe Review