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Our Story

Since 1922, Vancouver College has served its Mission, following in the tradition of the Blessed Edmund Rice and the Christian Brothers, to provide today's young Christian men with an educational experience that will lead to the development of their whole persons - culturally, emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially, and in particular, spiritually.

The Early Years 1922-1939

1922 - 1939

The history of Vancouver College began in 1906, when the rector of Holy Rosary Cathedral, Fr. Welch, applied to the Congregation of Christian Brothers, then known as the Congregation of the Brothers of the Christian Schools of Ireland (FSCH: Fratres Scholarum Christianarum de Hibernia), to establish a school for boys in Vancouver. The application was turned down at this time and further application in 1912 was also turned down. The reasons were not given, but applications of this sort are usually turned down due to lack of availability of Brothers at that particular time.

Further applications were made by Archbishop Casey, then Archbishop of Vancouver, to the Superior General of the Brothers, Br. Hennessey, and this request received a positive response. Four Brothers, Lannon, Reid, Murtagh, and Keane, were missioned to Vancouver and began what was to be Vancouver College at the downtown site on Richard's St. known as Rosary Hall. The first classes numbered 91 boys, and classes began in the fall of 1922. The first principal was Br. Jerome Lannon.

Both the demands of increasing the enrollment and of finding a better location for developing a school brought about a building campaign among the Catholic population of Vancouver, and in 1925, sufficient funds were available to purchase land on the then-remote part of Vancouver called Shaughnessy Heights and to build a school which was named Vancouver College. This initial building presently forms the part VC which we call Lannon Hall.

The administration of Vancouver College was the responsibility of Br. Lannon over the years from 1922 to 1928.

The new Catholic High School served the Catholic population of Vancouver and cut across the general Catholic population. Continued demand for more space to accommodate increasing student population resulted in further seeking of funds.

Thanks to the generosity of J. D. McCormack and his family, a substantial donation was given to the College for purposes of erecting a new wing which would house classrooms and provide space for boarding students, since many communities in British Columbia did not have Catholic schools at that time. This wing was constructed and opened in 1927 and presently is named McCormack Hall.

With the two building wings in operation, the school population climbed to 300 students.

A strong educational program was in evidence from the beginning. The first graduating class, class of 1927 - 1928, experienced a 75% passing rate, which, under the British Examination system, was quite high.

As with pretty well all Brothers' schools, the whole person was focused on. Numerous activities, centering on the arts, athletics, and human interest, were developed.

The first school orchestra, under the direction of a Professor Talbot, was formed and performed as early as 1924. In the area of drama, Shakespearian plays were the order of the day. These were performed at the Orpheum Theater. In 1924, Macbeth was performed and in 1927, Julius Caesar was staged. Activities such as Irish dancing, choral work, gymnastic displays, debating and public speaking, and the list goes on, were part of the extracurricular fabric of Vancouver College. As was traditional in Brothers' schools, regular school liturgies, including First-Friday devotions, school confessions, and a yearly retreat program saw to the spiritual needs of the students. Religious education was an important element of the curriculum and the tradition of "Friday talks" by the religion teacher was upheld.

The large number of vocations, particularly to the priesthood, from the ranks of VC's graduates was indicative of the quality of religious education at the school.

Competitive sports were entered into almost immediately. The major sports at the beginning of VC's history were soccer and rugby. Basketball was a fledgling sport in the 20's, and was not considered in the same vein that it is today. VC won its first Championship in 1924, winning the Vancouver School Soccer Championship, and, four years later, VC won the Greater Vancouver Rugby Championship. Football, Canadian style, was introduced in 1929, and, over the next ten years, the school became a power in the Vancouver Area.

The first basketball team appeared in 1928, coached by Br. Breen, whom many of the present staff knew. Br. Breen's association with Vancouver College continued over his life and he spent many years teaching at College, and, after retiring from teaching, was groundskeeper at the school.

As the school moved into the thirties, history would not smile as bountifully on Vancouver College as it did in the first years of its existence. The Great Depression took its toll on the enrollment, so that, at the height of the depression, the enrollment was under 200 students. Finances became a huge burden, and, during the thirties, the focus was more on surviving this part of history than on expansion. The school, however, survived the Depression. One has to give great credit and respectful admiration to the administrators of the time, Br. Lannon and Br. Cel Stirling, who withstood the rigors of the era.

It is interesting to note that, in the late thirties, football at VC went south of the border, as, for one reason or another, the schools and teams around the Lower Mainland would not schedule Vancouver College. Thus, football at VC became American football as opposed to Canadian football.

World War II saw an upsurge in the fortunes of Vancouver College. Br. E. B. Walsh assumed the responsibility of Principal in 1939. Brother Walsh was a man of many talents and was very astute as to sensing the tenor of the times. He established a strong Cadet Corp in the school, and VC became well known for its patriotic contribution to the war effort. Registration climbed back to respectable levels, and, by the end of the war, the school was back on track.

The Middle Years 1946-1977

The Middle Years of Vancouver College began with something of a disaster. On December 5, 1946, a major fire destroyed the upper part of McCormack Hall, causing an estimated $50,000 in damages. That would probably translate into the million dollar range in today's currency. Boarders had to be housed out, and the generosity of the various families who took in these students for an extended period of time until the wing was refitted is to be commended. Classes were minimally disrupted during this difficult time.

Over the Middle Years of Vancouver College, among the Principals of Vancouver College there appeared a number of forward-looking and innovative individuals who made their contribution to College in a number of ways. The academic and spiritual aspects of school life at Vancouver College were well attended to. The large number of students who attended post-secondary institutions of learning was most encouraging over those years. Little Flower Academy students attended classes at Vancouver College during this period, starting in 1967.

As to expansion, 1957 saw the opening of Mackin Hall, under the guiding hand of Br. J. C. Bates, a well-known and much-respected Principal of Vancouver College.

This provided cafeteria space, classrooms, and, later, science room space, and was the gift of Mr. Henry Mackin to the school. Prior to the construction of Mackin Hall, Alumni Gym, scheduled to be built in the mid-forties but postponed due to the fire, was built. It was greatly needed and was a focal point for many of the activities of the school. It was completed and used in 1951, and, with some adjustments, is the present facility for gym sports.

The population of the school, now housing K to 12 students, rose to 1000 during the Middle Years. There was a felt need to improve the Science facilities of VC, so, in 1964, Nichol Hall was opened, and its name recognized the contributions of Msgr. Nichol to the school. Msgr. Nichol was, for years, the parish priest of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, and Chaplain of Vancouver College.

The Arts took on a somewhat new look. Mr. Gordon Olsen became Band Instructor in the mid-forties and his efforts over the next forty years are testimony to the success of the band program at Vancouver College.

The drama and choral efforts of the students, present, but separate until 1969, were brought together in the form of Broadway Musicals which were presented each year in conjunction with Little Flower Academy. The first of these was 'Finian's Rainbow', which played at the Metro Theater. These were highly enjoyable and successful projects and they continued until the early eighties.

Football and basketball assumed the spotlight as competitive sports, with many other sports present on the athletic menu, either competitively or as intra-murals. Wrestling, hockey, soccer, track and field, to name just a few, were part of the program. College was still a force in football, and the names of Greg Cabot and Cal Murphy rank among the coaches associated with Vancouver College in the fifties and sixties. In the area of basketball, VC won the inaugural BCChampionship in 1947, and have won five such Championships since. Over its basketball history, VC has been in the hunt for the BC crown most years. Such names as Mulhern, Lasko, Melanson, Williscroft, conjure up memories of past basketball triumphs.

During this time, Vancouver College wrestled to come to grips with a world-wide situation - that of a changing Catholic Church caught in the uncertainty of life after Vatican II. Br. Henry Bucher, Principal, initiated a very effective retreat program under the direction of Fr. Fred Neilson. Weekly and regular retreats and spiritual workshops were well-attended and well-received by the senior students.

The Recent Years 1977-Present

The recent years began with Br. Michael Maher as Dean of Studies at VC prior to taking over the administrative role of Principal. During Brother Maher's tenure of Office:

- the Junior and Senior Boarding facilities were closed and the area was renovated to its present situation.

- thanks to the financial support of the O'Hagan and Rogers families, O'Hagan field became a reality.

- the Brothers Residence, Walsh Residence, was opened.

- plans were initiated which saw the opening of the new wing of Vancouver College in 1990.

The school population at this time was approximately 1000 students, with a large contingent of feeder-school applications each year. The school has provided a very competent academic program for its students, evidenced by the large number of graduates who attend universities and colleges upon graduation. In recent years, enhancement of this program has been evolving.

Of special note is the emergence of a very strong Religious Education and Spirituality program incorporating the Encounter program which was initiated during the tenure of then-Br. Ken Farrell. The administration of Vancouver College saw the formation of Vancouver College Limited as a corporate entity and the formation of a Board of Directors to oversee Vancouver College Limited. Vancouver College Foundation was formed in the mid-eighties with the purpose of fundraising in order to underwrite capital projects.

Today's Vancouver College is school to 1,060 students with approximately 400 on the waiting list. It is continuously ranked as one of the top three academic schools in the province by the Fraser Institute. The Running Start Program with Corpus Christi College was introduced in 2006 offering University-level courses at Vancouver College.

The Arts still flourish at Vancouver College with a variety of performances by Elementary, Middle, and Senior school students held throughout the year. Public speaking, Pro-life club, debate, and other clubs add to a very full repertoire of academic and non-academic options at Vancouver College. Athletics continue to have a prominent role in the College, especially with traditional and spirit-engendering sports such as football and basketball. In light of the interests of the diverse student body, athletics have grown with recent additions or resurgence of sports programs such as rowing, tennis, badminton, volleyball, rugby, soccer, hockey, and golf.

With the kind generosity of benefactors and supporters of Vancouver College, major capital projects have become a reality with the addition of a new building housing the super-laboratory, second gymnasium, 2-storey high performance centre, performing arts theatre, and an artificial turf and new track. This expansion provides additional opportunities for students to pursue excellence in all their endeavours – spiritually, academically, and physically.

Vancouver College is proud of its history and accomplishments and look to the future with hope and confidence in the goodwill and abilities of its staff. Its mission, to evangelize and to be a beacon of faith and truth to the people of Vancouver, has been realized in good measure, and it is of great credit to the teachers, students, parents, and friends of Vancouver College in seeing fulfillment of its initial mission.

May the good Lord continue to bless our efforts.

Vancouver College Past Principals

The Early Years

1922 - 1928Br. Jerome Lannon
1928 - 1930Br. P. B. Doyle
1930 - 1933Br. Jerome Lannon
1933 - 1939Br. C. C. Sterling
1939 - 1945

Br. E. B. Walsh

The Middle Years

1945 - 1948Br. D. Cunningham
1948 - 1954Br. W. C. Penny
1954 - 1960Br. J. C. Bates
1960 - 1966Br. F. R. Finch
1966 - 1968Br. J. B. Clarkson
1968 - 1975Br. H. L. Bucher
1975 - 1977

Br. J. C. Bates

The Recent Years

1977 - 1983Br. M. M. Maher
1983 - 1985Br. P. P. McNiven
1985 - 1987Br. J. F. McHugh
1987 - 1994Br. K. J. Farrell
1994 - 1998Br. K. J. Murphy
1998 - 2003Br. A. M. Murphy
2003 - 2009Mr. Dave Hardy
2009 - 2014Mr. John McFarland
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