College marks its sapphire anniversary

East York’s public college is blowing out 45 candles this year for its sapphire anniversary.

In 1966, Centennial College opened its doors. It was named in honour of Canada’s impending 100th birthday.

The first campus was housed in the former Canadian Arsenals Ltd. radar manufacturing factory on Warden Avenue in Scarborough. The first students started classes on Oct. 17, 1966. Today, a townhouse development sits on the site.

Centennial came to East York in 1979, moving into the former Ontario Teacher Education College building at 951 Carlaw Ave. That building — essentially unchanged outside, but thoroughly renovated inside several times — first served as the schools of business and continuing education. Later it gained a measure of national fame as the set for CBC’s Degrassi High television series. Now it houses Centennial’s communications programs. That includes journalism, academic home to the students who publish the East York Observer.

Nate Horowitz, dean at the East York campus, said that one thing to celebrate on the college’s anniversary is its history of ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to pursue education.

“Because we were the first college, we really set a tone for accessibility, meaning people whose parents or grandparents may never have gone to a post-secondary institution now have the opportunity that Centennial brought forward,” he said.

Horowitz said the college’s commitment to this hasn’t changed.

Rosanna Cavallaro, vice-president of marketing communications, said she believes the college is built on the commitment of many staff to the students.

“To be successful in one area, doesn’t make you successful in others, so the success of an organization means to work together,” she said.

Cavallaro said there’s a good reason for this.

“We make sure we’re providing our students with the best possible education so they can go out and make a difference in the world,” she said.

Despite its achievements, however, Horowitz said Centennial faces some complex issues.

“We’ve got great growth potential,” he said. “However (we need) more space. We need to think where we’re going to get the space to run more programs, at this campus and every other campus.”

He also said that due to the growth of the college over the last 45 years, Centennial has blossomed into a role model for other schools.

“In some cases they are emulating us,” he said. “Colleges in the rest of Canada have picked up some of our ideas.”