The writing on the wall: Campus buildings and who they’re named after

By in Culture/Features

Kirk Hall

Originally named the School of Agriculture, Kirk Hall once served as a place for teaching and research in agriculture as well as a residence for students in that program. Lawrence Kirk began his career at the U of S in 1917 as an instructor in agronomy, a position he held until 1919 when he was hired as a professor in field husbandry. In 1937, Kirk was named dean of agriculture, and held the position until 1947.

Kirk is most well known for introducing crested wheatgrass to Canada and for helping control the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. In 1962, the School of Agriculture was renamed Kirk Hall to honour him and in 2005, Kirk was awarded the Saskatchewan Centennial Leadership Award for his contributions to the U of S Alumni Association.

Peter Mackinnon Building

Formerly named the College Building, the Peter MacKinnon Building was built between 1910 and 1913. It was one of the first five buildings commissioned to be built for the U of S. Before the university expanded, this is where the campus library was located — now, it’s where the presidential suite is located.

Although receiving his undergraduate and law degree from elsewhere in Canada, Peter MacKinnon attained his masters of law at the U of S. In 1975, he was appointed as an assistant professor of law and was promoted to associate professor in 1978 and to professor in 1983.

In 1979, while holding the position of associate professor, he was also appointed as assistant dean of law. He was assistant dean of law for three years until he was promoted to dean of law in 1988. He held this position for 10 years, until he was named the eighth president of the U of S in in 1999. The College Building was renamed to honour Peter MacKinnon in 2012.

The Williams Building

In the 1920s, Saskatchewan’s provincial government decided the province was in need of a school for the deaf, and so in 1931, the Williams Building opened its door. During its construction in 1927, a man named Rupert Williams moved from Manitoba to Saskatchewan as he was appointed to review deaf schooling in the province. Williams had lost his hearing after contracting spinal meningitis as a child. His job was to ensure deaf students received the appropriate education they should at school.

Williams was offered the position of superintendent, but instead served as the dean of resident from 1931 to 1963. Williams passed away in 1973, and on its 50th anniversary celebration, the building was renamed in honour of Williams. In the 1990s, the School for the Deaf was sold to the university as deaf children were being integrated into the regular schooling system, but the building stayed and has since remained in Williams’ name.


The John Mitchell Building

Born in Manitoba, John Mitchell moved to Saskatchewan in 1910 and enrolled at the U of S in 1915 at the age of 18. Only a year passed for Mitchell at the U of S before he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, where he was injured in France. His injury prevented him from continuing with the Force so he returned to Saskatchewan and continued at the U of S, receiving his bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1924.

Mitchell continued his postgraduate studies in Wisconsin where he received both his master’s degree and in 1931, his doctorate. After completing his studies he returned to the U of S as an instructor and in 1934 was named a full professor and head of the department of soil science.

In addition to being a distinguished scientist and professor, Mitchell was known for the work he did when he held the position of director with the Saskatchewan Soil Survey. Originally called the Soils and Dairy Science Building, it was renamed in 1957 in his honour, one year after Mitchell’s sudden death.

Murray Library

Murray Library is named in honour of the U of S’s first president Walter. C. Murray. Hewas born in New Brunswick, which is where he received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Murray then attended the University of Edinburgh where he received his masters in philosophy in 1891.

Murray returned to the University of New Brunswick, where he taught as a professor of philosophy and economics, before moving to the University of Dalhousie to teach. During his time teaching, Murray gained much attention and became well known for being both a great professor and person. While at Dalhousie, Murray received an offer to become the first president of the new university in Saskatchewan.

At first reluctant, Murray accepted the offer and became the first president of the U of S in 1908. Murray helped build the U of S from the ground up, and was most known for advocating that agriculture studies be included on campus, as before they were separate entities around the city. Murray is cited as a kind and generous man who was beloved around campus as both a president and person, and served as president until his retirement in 1937.

The Thompson (Biology) Building

After attending the University of Toronto and Harvard University, Walter Thompson received a letter from Walter Murray, the first and then president of the U of S, offering him a position within the university. When Thompson received this letter, he was in South Africa continuing his study and research on plant morphology which he was well-known and awarded for.

Thompson accepted both the position of professor and head of the department of biology and began at the U of S in 1913, becoming the founder of the biology department. Between the years 1931 and 1938, Thompson had done his most influential research on the cytology and genetics of cereal plants — this research brought the U of S both national and international recognition.

In 1938, Thompson became the dean of arts and science and in 1949, being the obvious candidate, became the new president of the university. He held the position of president for 10 years until 1959, retiring then at the age of 70 years old.

The building’s most known feature is the mural of mosaic tiles which shows the four main stages of mitosis. The artist, Roy Kiyooka, designed the mural in dedication to Thompson and his discoveries regarding the genetics of wheat rust.

The Thorvaldson (Chemistry) Building

Thorbergur Thorvaldson was born in Iceland, and in 1883 emigrated to Manitoba where he spent most of his young years. At the University of Manitoba, he received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and then went on to complete his master’s and doctorate in chemistry at Harvard.

In 1915, after receiving his doctorate in chemistry, he was offered the position of associate professor at the U of S. He spent three years in this position and in 1918 was promoted to professor. In 1919, Thorvaldson was named head of the department of chemistry.

Thorvaldson remained Head of the Department for 29 years until 1948, and in 1949 he was appointed the first dean of the College of Graduate Studies. Thorvaldson gained national and international acclaim for this research on the chemistry of cements as well as the development of sulphate resistant cement and concrete. 

The Thorvaldson Building was originally built in 1924 for chemistry research and teaching, and was only known as the Chemistry Building. However, after the Second World War, there was a large influx of students and the limitations of the building became known — it was to small. So, in 1966 a second wing was built and at its official opening, the entire building was renamed in honour of Thorvaldson, who had passed away one year earlier in 1965.

Leslie and Irene Dubé donated $10 million to the Health Sciences Project at the university. University of Saskatchewan / Supplied

Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library

Originally from Wynyard, Sask., married couple Leslie and Irene Dubé are known in Saskatoon for their charitable and entrepreneurial leadership as well as their community service. In the 1960s, they invested in the private sector by purchasing land on 8th Street and in 1969, started a small property management business called the Concorde Group. The Concorde Group is now located in Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia, as well as Saskatoon.

In 2011, with hopes of improving Saskatchewan’s health care and education systems, the Dubé’s announced they were donating $10 million to the Health Sciences Project at the University of Saskatchewan. In addition to this donation, the Dubés founded and funded the Les and Irene Service-Learning Community program at St. Thomas More College.

In 2007, they received honorary doctors of law from the U of S and in 2008 were awarded Saskatchewan’s highest honour — the Saskatchewan Order of Merit.

Bridget Morrison / Culture Editor