An unwavering commitment to student success, high-quality programs led by exceptional professors with real-world experience, graduates who’ve gone on to outstanding career success and a treasured relationship with the community – Durham College (DC) has been guided by these ideals since 1967.
1965 TO 1969
Aerial view of the college before being named the Gordon Willey building.
It was in May 1965 when former Ontario Education Minister Bill Davis introduced legislation to establish colleges of applied arts and technology across the province. The legislation reflected a profound new approach to education that has energized, stimulated and transformed the provincial and national economies ever since.
Community leaders in the region quickly responded to this announcement and on October 13, 1966, a volunteer board of governors for DC met for the first time. Administrative offices were soon set up in The Bateman House at 304 Simcoe Street North, a location that was provided by the Oshawa General Hospital. Before long, a permanent campus for the college was found when E.P. Taylor came forward and identified the southwest corner of Conlin and Simcoe streets as a suitable home.
DC officially opened for studies on September 18, 1967 in 16 portable classrooms, employing a staff of 14 and serving 205 students. The first academic calendar offered courses in applied arts, business and technology. The college’s first president, Dr. Gordon Willey, affectionately known as Doc, was an engineer by trade and placed special emphasis on technology.
1970 TO 1979
The cafeteria, which sat 400 students and served warm meals day and night, opened in September 1971.
The college flourished from the start, soon opening two permanent buildings in 1970 and 1971, expanding programs and celebrating enrolment growth. By its 10th anniversary, courses were also being offered in health sciences and adult training, while enrolment had climbed to more than 1,250 students.
Of note, the campus was home to the Regional Municipality of Durham’s first office. Durham Region officially came into being January 1, 1974, comprised of eight municipalities, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax and Pickering.
1980 TO 1989
Ruth Milne at a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The 1980s were marked by change and growth for the college. Dr. Willey was succeeded by Mel Garland and further expansion of facilities continued with a focus on bringing the latest technology to the classroom. This included the construction of a new state-of-the-art Robotics lab, the precursor to the Integrated Manufacturing Centre found on campus today.
By the college’s 20th anniversary in 1987, enrolment was close to 2,700 full-time students and in 1988, Dr. Gary Polonsky was named president.
1990 TO 1999
President Gary Polonsky giving a speech.
Under President Polonsky’s leadership, the early 1990s brought more growth to the college, including the purchase of the Cadbury chocolate factory overlooking Highway 401 to establish its Whitby campus.
DC’s Whitby campus opened its doors in 1993; the centerpiece the campus at the time was the Skills Training Centre, offering skilled trades and apprenticeship training.
Students have always played a critical role in college decision-making. From voting for the Student Centre to a referendum on an Athletic Centre expansion, the college trusts its students to speak on key initiatives that ultimately affect their post-secondary experience. There are also more than 25 diverse student clubs on campus that meet a variety of needs and interests.
2000 TO 2009
Exterior of the Justice Wing.
Over the years, DC has strived to offer students increased opportunities to unique educational pathways. Strong partnerships existed with York and Trent universities for years, eventually leading to the establishment of the Durham University Centre in 1996, which enabled Durham Region residents to take university courses here at home. In 2003, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) opened its doors at the college’s Oshawa campus. With the addition of UOIT as a campus educational partner, DC students had an even richer campus experience. With access to new academic options, such as unique bridging programs, students in particular areas of study could move from college to university in pursuit of their educational and career goals.
September 2007 marked the beginning of another milestone year as DC arrived at its 40th anniversary. A year of celebrations kicked off with the City of Oshawa proclaiming September 18 as Durham College Day, while the unveiling of an Alumni Wall of Distinction in the Gordon Willey building in October and Homecoming weekend in May also marked four decades of post-secondary excellence.
On May 16, 2008, Don Lovisa was named interim president of DC and was formally appointed president on January 1, 2009.
The college’s enrolment grew to more than 7,100 students in full-time studies, thousands more in part-time studies and 1,400 apprentices. At this time, DC offered more than 100 full-time programs in high-demand areas.
On December 8, 2009, the college celebrated the grand opening of Phase 1 of the Whitby campus expansion. The initial phase of the expansion project included a second-storey addition that houses new classrooms and labs; the Incubation Centre, developed in partnership with the Durham Strategic Energy Alliance; and living lab environments in areas including solar water heating, solar cell systems, wind turbines and geothermal technology systems.
2010 TO NOW
Student Services building.
By spring convocation in June 2010, the college had reached nearly 50,000 alumni. It also awarded its first-ever Durham College honorary credential to dental surgeon Dr. Peter Zakarow, acknowledging his dedication to community involvement and DC, where he served as college governor (starting in 1982) and chair of the Board of Governors (1985-1987).
In September 2010, DC was honoured with the 2010 Business Excellence Award, and later in the year was named one of Greater Toronto’s Top Employers.
Enforcing the college’s commitment to the student experience, the Oshawa campus officially opened the Student Services building (SSB) in March 2011, offering one of the most comprehensive and all-encompassing service facilities in the province. The one-stop shop facility creates a vital first point of access for potential applicants, current students and graduates. Within the year, the college also introduced Suswaaning Endaajig, the new Aboriginal Student Centre and the Durham Chinese Canadian Cultural Centre, both located in the Simcoe building.
In May 2011, DC officially opened Phase 2 of the three-phase Whitby campus expansion. Phase 2 introduced an expanded shop focused on green-building trades and technology, as a follow up to the living labs introduced with Phase 1.
In September 2012, DC had the highest enrolment growth of any college in the province, according to figures released by the Ontario College Application Service (OCAS). With the introduction of 11 new programs including Carpentry – Sustainable, Digital Photography, Digital Video Production, Emergency Service Fundamentals, Victimology and Welding Techniques, the college welcomed 5,587 first-year students, an increase of 15.3 per cent over the previous academic year. In addition, enrolment for all years reached 9,047 students, an increase of 14.2 per cent over fall 2011.
In September of 2013, Phase 3 of the Whitby campus expansion, the Centre for Food (CFF), opened. Accommodating approximately 900 additional students studying a variety of programs including Culinary Skills, Culinary Management, Cook – Apprenticeship, Hospitality – Hotel and Restaurant Operations Management, Hospitality Skills, Special Events Planning and Horticulture – Food and Farming, the CFF features state-of-the-art kitchens and labs including a food and beverage pairing lab and hotel living lab; classrooms and meeting spaces; Pantry, a food retail store; and a demonstration lecture theatre.
DC’s new restaurant, Bistro ’67, officially opened for business in October 2013. Located at Whitby campus’ CFF, Bistro ’67 is a full-service, green-certified restaurant. In addition to serving the public, the restaurant also provides a supportive and creative teaching environment with hands-on learning experience. The name for the new dining option was chosen from more than 1,150 submissions after a month-long competition. The restaurant name pays homage to the year the college first opened its doors in 1967. Bistro ’67 offers its guests a unique dining experience through its field-to-fork vision, representing what happens when communities, local farmers and education work together.
In November 2013, the Whitby campus celebrated its 20th anniversary. Over its two decades, the campus expanded to include a computer commons, offices and student spaces. The more notable expansions to the Whitby campus are the CFF and Bistro ’67.
In December 2014, DC announced its participation with Spark Centre and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster to launch the FastStart program along with UOIT, Fleming College and Trent University. The program is designed to help post-secondary students build entrepreneurial skills and create successful companies.
Since its establishment, DC’s CFF and Bistro ’67 have celebrated many milestones. In July 2015, the CFF opened a pollinator garden, which not only created a safe environment for pollinators but also provided unique learning opportunities for students in the Horticulture – Food and Farming and Horticulture Technician programs.
Also in July 2015, TripAdvisor awarded a Certificate of Excellence to Bistro ’67 for the restaurant’s consistent high reviews on the travel website. With 173 reviews to date, the successful bistro is listed fifth out of 226 Whitby, Ont. restaurants and proudly maintains a four-and-a-half out of five star rating. In the same year, the CFF was honoured with the prestigious Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) Award.
In September 2015, DC and UOIT announced the completion of the Campus Master Plan (CMP). Outlining a broad vision to show how the two institutions will grow, the CMP addresses the partnership needs of academic, research, student life, athletic and community between the organizations. Specific CMP areas of focus include campus character, infrastructure and utilities, movement and circulation, public realm and open space, and sustainability and universal accessibility.
To celebrate the college’s first crop yield, the CFF hosted its first-ever Harvest Dinner in September 2015. The sold-out dinner featured produce and herbs harvested by DC students as well as a multi-course meal that was inspired by the CFF’s field-to-fork vision.
All of the CFF’s successes would not have been made possible without the generosity of the community which is why in January 2016, a donor wall was unveiled at the CFF to honour those who contributed to create the centre.
DC presented the first-ever Gold Medal Award in April 2016. The Gold Medal Award is offered by the college’s leadership team and given to exemplary students within the Culinary Management program who demonstrate excellence in attendance, volunteerism, professionalism, attitude and academic standing through their time at DC.
In April 2016, DC received $22 million in funding from the provincial government toward construction of the Centre for Collaborative Education (CFCE). The new three-storey building will replace the aging Simcoe building, which was originally built as a temporary structure, and will bring together local, Indigenous and global communities. The CFCE will house the Aboriginal Student Centre, the Entrepreneurship Centre and Health Science facilities.
In May 2016, DC’s sustainability team and CFF were honoured for the first time with the Eric Krause Innovative Plans/Policies/Initiatives Award during the Durham Environmental Advisory Committee’s annual Environmental Achievement Awards. The college was recognized for positive environmental change as well as initiatives that encourage positive change in the natural environment.
DC strives to foster and sustain an environment of inclusiveness that empowers everyone to achieve their highest potential without fear of prejudice or bias. In May 2016, DC recognized International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia by raising the pride flag for the first time. Students, employees and community partners gathered at the flag poles located in front of the SSB to watch the ceremony.