Today, May 8, the University of Guelph celebrates six decades of academic achievement, research, innovation and community impact.  

In 1964, U of G was founded as an amalgamation of three founding colleges — the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and the Macdonald Institute. Since then, U of G consistently pushes boundaries, fosters interdisciplinary collaboration, nurtures generations of leaders and, most importantly, improves life. 

Join us in reflecting on some of the many achievements and milestones that have made U of G into the vibrant and dynamic hub of learning, research and service that it is today. At the heart of each achievement and milestone are U of G’s people – the passionate, dedicated and talented faculty, staff, students and alumni who drive us forward every day. 

It’s hard to encapsulate a history full of incredible people and institutional accomplishments, but here’s our attempt to celebrate 60 years of U of G brilliance with 60 facts about U of G’s history, innovations and people.  

A group of students chat while standing by the Gryphon statue on a sunny day.

U of G fun facts

A few fun facts to start… 

  • U of G’s motto is “Rerum cognoscere causas,” a quote from Virgil meaning “To learn the meaning of reality.” 
  • South Residence, the largest residence on campus, is home to 1,800 students and over 50 Residence Life staff members. It was built in 1968 by Australian architect John Andrews, a Brutalist architect who has designed several Canadian university residences, as well as Toronto’s iconic CN Tower. 
  • As a result of jovial rivalry between Engineering and Agricultural Science students (“Aggies”), the cannon has moved around campus due to practical jokes between the two majors. It has perched on top of MacNaughton, disappeared and reappeared on the University of Western Ontario campus, and now rests cemented in place since 1973. 
  • U of G’s annual student-run open house, College Royal, has been running for 100 years and regularly welcomes over 20,000 attendees as the largest open house of its kind in North America. 
  • The main university campus spans 412 hectares (1,017 acres), including the 165-hectare (408-acre) University of Guelph Arboretum and a 12-hectare (30-acre) research park. 
  • From tiny soil microbes to piglets to fully grown Angus cows, Ontario’s agri-food research centres, which are owned by the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario and managed by U of G, are hands-on spaces for learning and testing new innovations that support Ontario’s $48.8-billion agri-food sector. 
  • For over a century, U of G has provided the only ice cream technology course of its kind in Canada, which explores the ins and outs of ice cream production with manufacturers, suppliers and retailers taught by Prof. Douglas Goff. 
  • The collaboration between the Government of Ontario and U of G began over 100 years ago and continues today as the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, which continues to drive innovation in the Ontario agri-food industry and stimulate prosperity in Ontario’s rural communities. 
Students walk across Johnston Green in front of Johnston Hall in the summer.

U of G historical milestones

Some of U of G’s historical milestones… 

  • In 1862, the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), the oldest of U of G’s colleges, was founded by Scottish veterinarian Andrew Smith. 
  • In 1874, The Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) was founded. 
  • In 1903, The MacDonald Institute was founded through the shared vision of Adelaide Hoodless, educational reformer and founder of the Women’s Institute, and William Macdonald, a wealthy tobacco magnate and philanthropist from Montreal. 
  • In 1921, Susannah Steckle, a noted member in the orchard industry and first elected woman president of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association, was the first woman to graduate from OAC. 
  • In 1922, OVC moved from Toronto to the city of Guelph. 
  • In 1924, War Memorial Hall opened as a memorial to the 110 OAC students killed in the First World War, proposed and mainly funded by students. 
  • In 1949, the Macdonald Institute offered its first four-year degree. 
  • In 1964, the University of Guelph was officially founded with the amalgamation of OAC, OVC, and the Macdonald Institute. A fourth, Wellington College, was established to offer other degree programs in the arts and sciences. 
  • In 1969, Wellington College was divided into the College of Arts, College of Physical Science, and College of Social Science, paving the way for the college structure familiar at the University of Guelph today. 
  • In 1971, the College of Biological Sciences is established. 
  • In 1978, the Art Gallery of Guelph was established as a non-profit organization with three sponsors: the University of Guelph, the City of Guelph and the Upper Grand District School Board. 
  • In 1989, OAC’s School of Engineering merged with the College of Physical Sciences to form the College of Physical and Engineering Sciences, later renamed to College of Engineering and Physical Sciences
  • In 1997, the Ontario Government amalgamated agricultural education across Ontario under the leadership of the OAC and University of Guelph. Research and teaching were offered in Guelph and Ridgetown. 
  • In 1998, The College of Social Science and College of Family and Consumer Studies (formerly the Macdonald Institute) were merged to form the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS). 
  • In 1999, The Canadiana/Begging Bear by artist Carl Skelton was installed outside of the Art Gallery of Guelph. It soon became a campus tradition to “dress” the Begging Bear. 
  • In 2006, U of G creates the College of Management and Economics, which in 2019 was renamed to the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics after receiving a historic $21 million gift from Stu and Kim Lang. It is the largest private donation ever given to the U of G. 
  • In 2014, The Gryphon statue was installed on the corner of Stone Road and Gordon Street. It quickly became a tradition for students to rub the Gryphon’s beak for luck at the start of semester and before exams and serves as the backdrop for many grad photos. 
Students walk by the cannon in branion plaza.

U of G innovations

With 60 years of innovation and research at U of G, it’s hard to only select a few… 

  • Developed in 1966 by potato breeder Gary Johnston, the Yukon Gold potato, is well-known for its unique colour and slightly nutty flavor. It quickly became a standard for gourmet spuds, gracing the inaugural ball for former U.S. president Bill Clinton and getting a shout-out by actor Jon Hamm in a Skip the Dishes Commercial
  • The Centre for Scottish Studies at U of G is the oldest academic unit in North America to carry out research, graduate training and teaching on Scottish history and Scottish culture. The Centre relies on U of G’s extensive Scottish Studies Archival Collection that is the largest in the world outside the United Kingdom. 
  • As co-creators of Canada’s Food Price Report, U of G’s food and business expertise have been guiding Canadians since 2010. 
  • Developed by biologist Dr. Paul Hebert, the DNA barcoding species identification system has prompted the International Barcode of Life project, the largest-ever initiative in biodiversity genomics and led to the discovery of thousands of overlooked species. For his work, Dr. Hebert received the Benjamin Franklin Medal, the fourth Canadian to receive the honour. 
  • NutriStep®, developed by U of G dietitian researchers, is a licensed nutrition screening program for toddlers and preschoolers, helping their parents assess nutritional risk based on food choices, eating behaviors, physical activity, and growth through questionnaires. 
  • FloNergia Systems Inc’s engineered-airlift pumps, known as FloMov, were developed by Dr. Wael Ahmed to enhance the performance of aquaculture systems by reducing energy usage and improving product quality for the aquaculture industry 
  • The U of G Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre, led by Dr. Amar Mohanty and Dr. Manjusri (Manju) Misra, has been integral to finding innovative ways to reduce reliance on plastics, creating Bio Bins, biocomposite storage bins; the world’s first completely biodegradable coffee pod PurPod100; and compostable cutlery and stir sticks made from coffee waste material and biopolymers. 
  • Established in 1985, U of G’s Cliff Ecology Research Group uncovers novel information about cliff ecosystems, including the discovery of an 1,800 year old tree which was thought to possibly be the oldest tree ever recorded at the time, furthering our understanding of ecosystems worldwide. 
  • Dr. Mario Monteiro discovered and developed the vaccine for C. difficile, a life-threatening infection, reducing a heavy burden on health care systems. 
  • Known as the “grandfather of malting barley,” the OAC 21 barley selected by Dr. Charles Zavitz in 1903 was in production for 50 years due to its superior yield and malting quality and is the predecessor to more than 200 barley varieties used to make beer and whiskey around the world today. 
  • The culinary collection housed in the Archival and Special Collections at the U of G Library is one of the largest in North America, including approximately 18,000 books, manuscripts, and archival materials used to gain historical, political and sociological insights into domestic sciences, nutrition, medical remedies and food technology. 
  • Drs. Brian McBride, Bruce Holub and Tom Wright discovered that feeding cows a diet of fish meal produced omega-3 fatty acid-rich dairy products, leading to the creation of Dairy Oh!, found in stores across Canada. 
  • Dr. Sarah Wootton and alumna Dr. Laura van Lieshout developed a novel Ebola virus treatment called vectored immunoprophylaxis (VIP). The antibody-based therapy is easy to manufacture and has been successfully tested for other diseases, including HIV and influenza. 
  • The shelf life of fruit can be extended by up to 50 per cent with the use of an all-natural hexanal spray developed by Drs. Gopi Paliyath and Jay Subramanian, preventing premature food spoilage and food waste.  
  • Asparagus production has expanded and improved thanks to Guelph’s Millennium Asparagus, developed by Dr. Dave Wolyn, which now dominates the Ontario market and thrives internationally in the U.S. and UK. 
  • Dr. Emma Allen Vercoe, created a mixture of beneficial gut bacteria called RePOOPulate that improves microbial diversity in the gut, potentially treating diseases like C. difficile infection and addressing gut-related diseases and replacing traditional fecal transplants. 
  • The U of G Insect Collection, Canada’s oldest insect collection, contains around three million specimens. It documents insect diversity, aiding research on identification, evolution, distribution, and life cycles. Dr. Stephen Marshall has maintained it since 1982. 
  • Drs. Bill Van Heyst and David Wood developed the SmogStop barrier, featuring a double-walled noise barrier and technology that breaks down harmful smog substances into eco-friendly elements, with a prototype installed on Highway 401 in Toronto for a year-long verification study. 
  • Dr. Grégoy Bédécarrats developed a unique LED red-spectrum lightbulb that increases egg-laying in hens while consuming 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. These waterproof and dustproof bulbs are ideal for barn environments. 
  • The OAC Bayfield soybean is a high-yielding, stable, and high-protein soybean cultivar that has contributed over $750 million to Ontario’s economy over more than 20 years, bred by Drs. Jack Tanner and Wally Beversdorf and their technician Wade Montminy. 
  • Dr. Chris Hall, founder of PlantForm Corporation, used genetically engineered tobacco plants to help produce cancer-fighting antibodies by developing a plant-based production system for biopharmaceuticals and has created a low-cost biosimilar version of the breast-cancer drug Herceptin. 
  • Founded in 1968, the student-run School of Fine Art & Music Print Study Collection houses over 2,200 fine art prints spanning the technology and aesthetic developments of fine art printmaking from the 16th century to today. 
  • Dr. Peter van Straaten’s alternative fertilizer, made from locally available rocks ground into a fine powder, enriches soil when combined with organic manure, leading to increased corn yields in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. 
  • Dr. Bonnie Mallard invented the High Immune Response Technology and the Immunity+ Technology that has been licensed to Canada’s largest dairy genetics company, the Semex Alliance. These technologies are used to identify and select animals with naturally optimized immune responses. 
  • Pathobiology professors Drs. Patricia Shewen and Bruce Wilkie developed a treatment for shipping fever in cattle, the Presponse vaccine, now an industry standard. It induces antibodies against a toxin attacking immune cells in the lungs, saving beef producers millions of dollars since its introduction in 1988. 
  • The Guelph Permeameter, invented by Dr. David Elrick, alumnus Dr. Dan Reynolds and Norbert Baumgartner, measures soil permeability quickly and accurately and has been used worldwide by soil researchers, hydrogeologists and drainage engineers for nearly 30 years. 
A silhouette of the portico on the U of G campus in winter as the sun sets behind it

Notable U of G alumni

Some of our more notable Alumni… 

  • Vandana Shiva (MA, 1975) is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, ecofeminist and anti-globalization author. Based in Delhi, Shiva has written over 20 books and is called “Gandhi of grain” for her activism associated with the anti-GMO movement. 
  • Scott McGillivray (BComm, 2001) is a Canadian entrepreneur, investor, television host, author and educator. 
  • Olivia Chow (BA, 1979) is a Canadian politician who has been the 66th mayor of Toronto since July 12, 2023.  
  • Roberta Bondar (BSc, 1968) is Canada’s first female astronaut and the first neurologist in space and graduated in 1968. 
  • Thomas George Dimitroff Jr. (BA, 1990) is an American football executive who served as the general manager of the Atlanta Falcons from 2008 to 2020 and the New England Patriots for six years prior.  
  • Cassie Dawin Campbell-Pascall (BA, 1997) is a former Canadian ice hockey player and a broadcaster for ESPN/ABC, and formerly Sportsnet. She was the captain of the Canadian women’s ice hockey team led the team to a gold medal in the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics. 
  • Audrey Marlene McLaughlin (Diploma in Home Science, 1955) is a Canadian politician and former leader of the New Democratic Party from 1989 to 1995. She was the first female leader of a political party with representation in the House of Commons of Canada, as well as the first federal political party leader to represent an electoral district in a Canadian territory. 
  • Harry Colebourn (Degree in Veterinary Surgery, 1911) served with the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps and became known for obtaining the bear cub that became the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. 
  • Lisa M. Thompson (BA, 1988) is the current Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for Ontario. 

Thanks for taking a walk down memory lane with us! And thank you to all the faculty, staff and students at U of G who are the heart of our community and make our university a great place to work and study.