[War Memorial Gymnasium - The Students' Vision]

Fifty years ago the University of British Columbia's War Memorial Gymnasium was dedicated at the fall congregation ceremony held on October 26, 1951.

[old gym]
Old Gymnasium - ca. 1930
(UBC 29.1/64)

As with a number of important initiatives before it, UBC students and alumni spearheaded the campaign to raise funds for the Gymnasium.

Previously UBC students had organized a successful campaign that culminated in the Great Trek to move the campus from the overcrowded facilities at Fairview to Point Grey in 1925. Students also raised funds for the construction of the first gymnasium on the new campus in 1929, and then the playing fields and stadium in the 1930s followed by Brock Hall in 1940.

Although unofficially opened for use in the spring of 1951, the origins of the War Memorial Gymnasium actually date back almost six years earlier.

The end of the Second World War and the resulting influx of returned soldiers to campus, sparked discussion about the establishment of a "living" memorial dedicated to the memory of those who died during the war. At the same time there was significant interest in providing adequate physical education and recreational facilities on campus.

The original gymnasium built in 1929 had been intended to serve a student population of approximately 1,500. However, by the mid-1940s this figure had increased to over 6,500. The original gymnasium, as with many other campus facilities, had become inadequate to meet the growing demands of the time.

[old stadium]
Stadium - 1937
(UBC 1.1/834)

The concurrent interest in securing a living memorial on campus and the desperate need to expand the University’s physical education and recreational facilities first found joint articulation at a Student Council meeting in November 1945. A motion tabled by Ole Bakken "THAT the War Memorial for the students of the University of British Columbia who served in the Second Great War be a modern gymnasium complete with swimming pool and other facilities…." carried unanimously.

The scope of the memorial was later expanded to include all of the men and women of British Columbia who served in the two world wars. The idea enjoyed great popularity amongst the students and shortly thereafter they started planning for a fund raising campaign to begin the following spring.

[Brock Hall]
Brock Hall - 1940
(UBC 1.1/346)

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