Features

First class

It was a blank canvas and Scarborough College's pioneer students laid the groundwork for the campus we have today

Elaine Smith
Image of Bruce and Stephanie Geddes

Bruce and Stephanie Geddes, both BA, 1968.

There was one long building and a very small student population. If you talk to the alumni who graduated in those early years of 1968 and 1969, they’ll tell you that intimacy was one of the best things about being at Scarborough College.

“We had classes of four or five students sometimes,” says Bruce Geddes (BA, 1968), who majored in French. “You really had to make sure you’d done your reading, because you were expected to participate.”

Maureen Somerville (BA, 1969), an English major who later became a U of T governor, says, “My French classes had 12 or 14, but my German class was so small it met in the professor’s office.”

Janice Sierakowski (BA, 1969), a graduate in sociology who met Stefan, her husband, at UTSC, liked the closeness it fostered. “You got to know people because there weren’t many people there at the time,” she says. “It was like a little community unto itself.”

The campus was also a work in progress. There was no heat in the stairwells, no recreation facilities on site—local high schools and community centres served that need—and construction was ongoing. Even the faculty split their time between the St. George campus and Scarborough.

The newness offered students a blank canvas for creating their student experience. There were dances, social events and drama productions, says Stefan Sierakowski (BA, 1968), who graduated cum laude with a degree in Spanish. Students ran both a student newspaper and a literary magazine during the inaugural year.

And with such a small labour pool to draw from, it wasn’t hard to get a job on campus.

“I was chief tour guide for a number of years, and I worked in the language lab and as a gardener on the grounds,” says Stefan Sierakowski.

“I always felt a little bit special because we were making history,” says Stephanie Geddes (BA, 1968), who graduated with an English degree. “U of T had longstanding traditions, but when the Scarborough campus opened up, there were none. We were laying the foundations for traditions that would follow.”