A closer look at Laurier’s past

Photo by Yasmeen Almomani

Wilfrid Laurier University’s rich history can be traced back over 100 years ago, to 1911. The timeline below shows an overview of the establishment of Laurier. 

  • 1911 The Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary of Canada opens in Waterloo  
  • 1913 Seminary is named Evangelical Lutheran Seminary of Canada 
  • 1924 The seminary launches a Faculty of Arts for post-secondary education named Waterloo College 
  • 1925 Waterloo College is affiliated with the University of Western, Ontario 
  • 1955 A group of faculty discussed opening a college for science and engineering programs 
  • 1973 Waterloo Lutheran University adopts the name Wilfrid Laurier University. 
  • 2015 Martin Luther University College becomes the name of the seminary to reflect the school and community we have become  
  • 2018 Waterloo Lutheran Seminary officially begins operating as Martin Luther University College  

This campus originally began as the Evangelical Lutheran Seminary of Canada in 1911 and had four students and one professor. The land was gifted to the seminary by the Board of Trade in the Region of Waterloo and the school was opened by Southern Ontario Lutherns. This action was taken to form pastors for Lutheran congregations across eastern Canada. 

By 1924, liberal arts and teachers’ college programs were developed and the seminary became more of a traditional “school,” offering undergraduate teaching. In 1955, a group of faculty started the University of Waterloo,  demonstrating our shared history with the university down the street. In 1973, this campus officially became Wilfrid Laurier University. 

There are often claims that the name Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) was chosen to mirror the acronym of the previous name, Waterloo Lutheran University (WLU), but they are unconfirmed. 

On the Laurier campus, seminary property is still present at the corner of Albert Street and Bricker Avenue and is now known as Martin Luther University College.  

Speaking with Kristine Lund, the Principal-Dean of Martin Luther University College, the college continues operating as a campus space and resource for students and Laurier constituents.  

Lund acknowledges that the building sits on the traditional territories of the Neutral, Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee Peoples, so when the Board of Trade in the Region of Waterloo gifted it to the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary to begin a school, it was not their land to give. 

“We make strong efforts to work for truth and reconciliation with our Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” she said. 

As a part of Laurier, Luther is committed to teaching, research, reflection and scholarship within the university. The staff and faculty aim to strengthen the community in a holistic way that values opinion and culture.  

Through Luther’s continuous development from a  seminary into a federated college with Laurier, they now offer programs and classes for students to take.  

“We hold a degree-granting ability in abeyance, and our students get Laurier degrees.” 

They offer undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate degree programs, including a Master of divinity, a bachelor of arts in Christian studies and global citizenship, and a graduate diploma in spiritual care and psychotherapy. 

“Luther would describe itself as a Lutheran host to a multifaith multicultural community,” Lund said. 

There are multifaith rooms with ablation stations, so the college has been used regularly in the past for Friday prayers. 

“We have a very diverse student body. And we have diverse faculty and staff. And we work to create a welcoming space where students can feel comfortable and welcome.” 

They have many initiatives throughout the year, including a food distro in partnership with LSPRIG, where they offer fresh produce, dairy, cheese, eggs, pasta, beans, rice, laundry, soap, shampoo and other household staples for students in need.  Furthermore, they offer a lending library where international students can come and take basic household items such as pots, bans, dishes, appliances, or bedding, to furnish their living areas. When they are done, they can bring back the items they borrowed to be cleaned and given to the next round of students. This saves students from buying temporary household appliances, as well as being a sustainable practice. 

“There are no questions asked when you’re near, students are welcome,” Lund said. The distro also welcomes donations from students who have the ability to help their fellow peers. 

Beyond academics and resources for students, Luther offers counselling and psychotherapy services. 

“We’ve worked with the chaplain multifaith committee at Laurier to meet the variety of spiritual needs of students,” Lund said. 

The Delton Glebe Centre, which is an outgrowth of Laurier, has a wide range of therapists and students from the Laurier social work program who do clinical placements there. There is a wide range of services offered by racially diverse, religiously diverse, multilingual therapists and counsellors. Luther also offers pet therapy, with their ‘Chilling with Dogs’ initiative.  

The Luther building is decorated with art pieces along the walls and in the chapels, “Students are welcome to come by and have a look at the art, sit, view the art and take some quiet time to reflect on things.” 

Beyond all of the academics and initiatives at Luther, students can come to the building to hang out and study. 

“[The building] is spacious, it’s bright, so a lot of students make use of the space for studying,” Lund said. 

She invites everyone to check out the building and attend the initiatives they host, while also looking into the history it holds and its connections to Laurier’s inception.  

Laurier was built up into an exceptional campus and Martin Luther University College remains a part of the campus.   

As you start your first year at Laurier (or as you return here for another year), we hope that, much like Laurier itself, you can build yourself up into something greater, one brick at a time.

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