As Laurier welcomes its 100,000th alumni into the fold this week, we celebrate our history and look forward to the future. To get a sense of how far we’ve come, we’ve asked one of Laurier’s oldest alumni, history grad Ward Kaiser (BA ’45) to compare his university experience to history grad Brittney Tessier, a member of the class of 2017.
1945: “The most devastating war in history was underway,” says Kaiser. “Many prospective students, both men and women, set aside their dreams of education for the duration (of the war).” The Second World War was drawing to an end when Kaiser graduated. Only nine students made it to the finish line, whittled down from the larger number who had enrolled. "Convocation was held, as usual, at the University of Western Ontario, with which Waterloo was affiliated. That set our small number in a larger and helpful context," says Kaiser.
2017: “The biggest thing that everyone was talking about in 2016-2017 was Donald Trump's presidential campaign and ultimately his election as the 45th President of the United States,” says Tessier. This June, approximately 2,900 students will graduate.
Brittney (left) with a friend on a Laurier History trip to Vimy Ridge.
1945: “We took lecture notes using fountain pens, we expected faculty to read pages and pages of term papers in scribbled longhand. As for the library, I know libraries in people’s homes more impressive than the one we had,” says Kaiser. Still, he says, no one complained. "If, as James Garfield commented, an ideal college was Mark Hopkins at one end of a log and a student at the other, almost any library could serve as the log as long as we had a great faculty. That we had," he adds.
2017: The essential tool for Tessier during university was her smartphone. “It sounds ridiculous and so 21st Century, but this thing was multi-purpose. I was able to talk to my parents who lived two hours away, connect with professors and colleagues over e-mail, keep my schedule and to-do lists, make notes so I didn't forget things, wake myself up in the morning using the alarm clock function, track my online banking, check the weather and most importantly, message my friends to find out who wanted to meet for study sessions on campus.”
Ward Kaiser in 2014.
1945: Kaiser’s first full-time job was overseas – in France doing relief and refugee work post Second World War. “It was soon enough after the (Second World) War that I walked through rubble to get to my post,” he says. Kaiser also did graduate work at Master’s and doctoral levels and worked as a pastor and book publisher.
2017: Tessier plans to return to school to pursue a Master’s degree in history and international studies. “I am looking to pursue a career in human rights advocacy within the government or an NGO,” she says.
Some things stay the same (like intramurals):
1945: “Men’s volleyball was king,” says Kaiser. “Pick-up games were played whenever a free period permitted. Without available showers, we simply went back to class in what was called the daily ‘offensive.’ The glory days of the Hawks were not even a gleam in anyone’s eye.”
2017: “My favourite leisure activity during my time at Laurier was intramurals. It was such a great way to make everlasting friendships while getting some good exercise,” says Tessier.