At Carleton, Remembrance Day has a special meaning. The University was founded primarily to provide those returning from the Second World War with an opportunity for post-secondary education.

Henry Marshall Tory was the dreamer.

Tory first developed an interest in educating soldiers after a tour of England and France in 1917. It inspired him to create Khaki University of Canada; a University where the campus consisted of military tents stocked with books, where popular lectures, small study and reading groups were held for Armed Forces.

Tory first began discussions for the creation of Carleton College with Fraser Eilliot and Alex Macrae in the 1930s. There was an overwhelming belief that as the war ended, the fortunate ones who would return from overseas to civilian life might want to resume or begin post secondary study. It would also provide educational opportunities for the many Civil Servants transferred to Ottawa from across the country in order to assist with domestic war efforts.

Plans for Carleton College began to take shape in December 1941. It would be free from religious or political affiliation, with the mandate to assist with rehabilitation after the war.

In 1942, the College opened its doors at the High School of Commerce, which provided space for night courses. Donations of desks, typewriters, and supplies were received from all over Ottawa to support the anticipated enrolment of 100 students. The estimates, however, were way off, as enrolment quickly climbed to almost 800 students. The first professors were government employees, paid five dollars per lecture.

In January 1944, the federal government declared an interest in helping create spaces in universities for returning soldiers. But many veterans didn’t even have enough high school education to qualify. Over the next two years, Tory worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a university preparation program for soldiers. More than 50 people took advantage of the night courses offered in churches and schools – or any other place Tory could find around the city.

In 1946, Tory secured a new home for the College on First Avenue, not far from the University’s current location. The home was formerly that of the Ottawa Ladies’ College. National Defence had been using it as a barracks for the Canadian Women’s Army Corps during the war. The school began offering programs to full-time students, and by 1950 nearly all the veterans registered at Carleton College had graduated.

While Carleton has certainly come a long way since its days on First Avenue, it’s roots can never be forgotten – and November 11 is a perfect day to remember.

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