The Howard Kerr Memorial Mace – Celebrating the Past, Present, and Future

It is convocation season and our graduates are eager to have that prized piece of paper in their hands. Certificates are not the only precious items held throughout the convocation ceremonies. Another ceremonial object to be excited about is the Howard Kerr Memorial Mace, carried during each convocation procession.

The Memorial Mace being carried by bedel Dr. Bannerman at Convocation, 2001. (RG 395.38.477, Folder 2 of 2)

Historically speaking, the Howard Kerr Memorial Mace is not very old but it is rooted in a rich history of Ryerson’s growth and transformation over the years. Each university traditionally owns a mace which plays a major role in ceremonies and convocations. It is a great symbol of pride and of the authority of the chancellor to award degrees to students. And so, when the Ryerson Institute of Technology was officially renamed Ryerson Polytechnic University in 1993, a mace was necessary to symbolize this new status, and Professor Bannerman of the Psychology Department brought forth this necessity into attention.

Many incorrectly assume that Egerton Ryerson is the founder but it was Howard Kerr who founded the Ryerson Insititute of Tecnology in 1948 and named it as such in Ryerson’s honour. Bannerman felt it would be ideal if Seaforth, Kerr’s hometown, paid him tribute as the founder and first principal of Ryerson and contribute to a mace. He appealed to the citizens of Seaforth and the surrounding district as well as to Kerr’s friends and family. By 1992, the Memorial Mace Committee was formed with Bannerman as the Mace Coordinator.

The Howard Kerr Memorial Mace Committee with Chancellor Crombie and President Grier, 1994. From left: Terence Grier, Clare Wescott, Alf Ross, Eugen Bannerman, David Crombie, Ross Ribey, and Harry Scott. (RG 76.14.618, Folder 4 of 4)

Many Seaforth scholars attended Ryerson and during convocation the town felt that sense of pride and unity. The citizens felt donating a mace would be a great opportunity for Seaforth to ingrain that connection and become a part of Ryerson’s history. People were enthusiastic and donations ensued. Around fifty individuals and groups affiliated with Seaforth, Kerr, or the school donated and they raised over $18 000.

Ryerson was not mace-less or tradition-less before the creation of the Memorial Mace, however. The Memorial Mace is actually the third convocation symbol. The first symbol was the Lamp of Learning donated by Doug McCrae, the first director of the School of Furniture Arts and it was originally used as a trophy for chariot races. It was replaced in 1985 by the Oakham House Debating Society’s mace, carved by faculty member Jim Peters. It was not meant to be a convocation mace because of its large ram’s head and a chain-link central section, symbolizing coherence and good debate. Both past symbols are now housed at the Ryerson Archives.

The Howard Kerr Memorial Mace

Douglass Morse was commissioned to carve the new mace and he incorporated a number of historic and traditional symbols to represent Ryerson, as well as to recognize Kerr and the town of Seaforth.

Morse also built a cabinet to house the mace. The engraving reads, “Howard Kerr Memorial Mace. This mace is presented to Ryerson Polytechnic University by the citizens of Seaforth and District and family and friends. In honour of the founder, Dr. Howard Hillen Kerr (1900-1984) 1994”.

The mace is:

  • 53 inches (134.62 cm) long
  • made of solid turned walnut
  • characterized by intricate protuberances and 24 carat gold-leaf details.

Details of the end of the mace.

Carved symbols on the mace are representative of:

  • the past – Egerton Ryerson’s portrait and the facade of the 1852 Normal School, built by him
  • the present – the coat-of-arms on the crown of the mace
  • the future – the space shuttle Columbia flown by Canada’s first female astronaut, Dr. Roberta Bondar of Ryerson’s Centre for Advanced Technology and Education
  • Ontario – provincial emblems on the crown: trilliums, maple leaves, and amethysts (Ontario’s official mineral)
  • donors from Howard Kerr’s hometowns – the coats-of-arms of townships of Seaforth and McKillop
  • the founder of Ryerson – a portrait of Howard Kerr
The Ryerson Coat of Arms on the mace. 

The crown of the mace, detailed with provincial emblems such as the maple leaf and the amethyst.  Carved details on the mace. (RG 5.266)

By the spring of 1994, the mace was complete and it was used in the convocation procession. Mace Committee members Ross and Ribey presented it to Mr. Crombie, the recently new and first Chancellor, on behalf of the donors. Dr. Bannerman was appointed bedel (mace-bearer) and continued on with this role at every convocation until he retired in 2001.

Ribey presenting the Memorial Mace to Crombie at Convocation, 1994. (RG 76.14.618, Folder 1 of 4)

Today, there is one bedel from every faculty, changing with each convocation.

Sue Williams, Dean Emerita, Faculty of Community Services 2012 Convocation bedel

Howard Kerr was certainly an important figure in the development of Ryerson University and his contributions are embedded in Ryerson’s past, present, and future. He once said, “My whole life is Ryerson. I live it, eat it, sleep it”.

The Howard Kerr Memorial Mace at Convocation, 1995. (RG 76.14.748)

In 2012 Ryerson was bestowed another honour with the presentation of the Eagle Staff.  Both will now be present at every convocation. For more information on the Eagle Staff, please read the Ryerson University Magazine story on the Eagle Staff.



Feature from the Collections: Looking Back at the History of the Normal School Building – Part Two

Postcard of the Normal School, viewable along with other postcards at the Archives. (from Normal School 1 doc. file)

As mentioned in Part One of this feature (published February 19, 2013), the Normal School was a great stepping stone for the future of education in Canada. Egerton Ryerson set the standards with the first Normal School of Upper Canada, furthering the quality of education as well as increasing the number of pupils with a desire to receive formal training. In 1852 the Normal School at it’s new St. James Square location had its first semester with two hundred pupil teachers and a total student body of six hundred with the elementary students included.

The front of the Normal School featuring the third storey constructed in 1890 to accommodate an auditorium and rooms for the School of Art and Design, a statue of Egerton Ryerson, and the iron fence. (from Normal School 1 doc. file)

From the moment the Normal School at St. James Square opened, it never stopped growing and transforming. Maintenance to the school’s infrastructure was frequent from the 1860s and on. Changes were also made to the east front of the building in 1882 to accommodate the Ontario School of Art and Design and an iron fence was added to the property ten years later. By 1896, a third storey was added to the South block of the Normal School which provided spacious halls with archways and allowed for its use as art and picture galleries. The new storey also allowed space for an auditorium.

The Toronto Normal School (RG 95-1-523-336-2 “Campus Old”)

The year 1941 marked the Normal and Model Schools buildings’ end as such and the government of Ontario offered the buildings for a federal-provincial war training centre – Dominion-Provincial War Emergency Training Program – in support of the Second World War. Also on site was the No. 6 Initial Training Centre of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Prefabricated buildings also were built.

The Normal and Model schools were relocated to the Earl Kitchener Public School in East York for the remainder of the war. Without discussion, the change was made and the Normal School was eventually renamed Toronto Teachers College.

After the war, the building was renamed yet again and it became the Toronto Training and Re-establishment Institute for people who had served in the war. The program ceased in 1948 and the institute became the Ryerson Institute of Technology with Howard Kerr as its founder. The building once known as the Normal School became Ryerson Hall in memory of Egerton Ryerson.

Photos of the demolition of Ryerson Hall and construction of Kerr Hall on display at the Ryerson Archives. (Photograph by Sarah Virag, 2012)

The now Ryerson Hall building served as the main building for the Ryerson Institute of Technology with the pre-fab outbuildings used as classrooms, social and athletic venues. However, by the late 1950s, it was decided that Ryerson Hall would be demolished to make room for an increasing student body and course offerings. Ryerson Hall could not accommodate the vast changes of the Institute.

It was hoped that St. James Square could be kept in tact but this proved to be impossible if the school was to move forward and expand. Between 1958 and 1963, the surrounding structures housed in St. James Square were demolished. These, along with the Normal School building, except its front door and surrounding façade, were replaced by the Kerr Hall quadrangle building.

The construction of Howard Kerr Hall surrounding Ryerson Hall. (RG 95-1-578-116 “Campus Old”)

Howard Kerr Hall with Ryerson Hall still standing in the quadrangle. (RG 95-1-623-51 “Howard Kerr Hall”)

The deconstruction of Ryerson Hall inside the quadrangle. (RG 95-1-623-51 “Howard Kerr Hall”)

In 1964, the school was renamed again, this time as Ryerson Polytechnical Institution, which eventually gave rise to what would become the Ryerson University we know today.

Aerial view of Howard Kerr Hall with only the façade of the Normal School / Ryerson Hall remaining. (RG 95-1-634-62 “Howard Kerr Hall”)

The façade of the Normal School reminds us of our school’s journey from a normal and model school to a polytechnic institute to a university. It remains as a beautiful mark of architecture and is still in use as the entrance to the Ryerson University Recreation and Athletics Centre. Nothing else stands from our past.

The commemorative plaque on the Normal School façade, or, the Arch, as it is often referred to today. (Photograph by Sarah Virag, 2012)

It is the door to our past and future.

The façade as it stands today, also known as the Arch. It is the entrance to the Ryerson University Recreation and Athletics Centre. (Photography by Sarah Virag 2012)

For more information and images of the Normal School and its deconstruction with the construction of Kerr Hall, please visit the Ryerson University Archives located on the third floor of the library, open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.




The Jack Layton Book Club


The Jack Layton Chair, in partnership with the Ryerson Library and Achives, are pleased to invite you to the inaugural series of presentations of the Jack Layton Book Club. They promise to be interesting, inter-active discussions of books that mattered to Jack, and the ideas Jack championed through his remarkable career.

Jack Layton’s personal book collection has been donated to Ryerson, where he was a Professor of Politics during the 1970s and 80s. At each meeting of the Jack Layton Book Club, an expert speaker introduces us to a book Jack read, treasured and was inspired by. All are welcome to attend.

Three sessions of the Jack Layton Book Club are scheduled in the weeks ahead.  All begin at 5:30 PM in the Archives, 3rd Floor, Ryerson Library, 350 Victoria Street. The Archives currently hosts a Jack Layton exhibit, which you are welcome to visit from 5 PM before each Book Club meeting.

Session 1

Tuesday 12 March 2013
5:30 PM, Archives, 3rd Floor, Ryerson Library, 350 Victoria Street.

Terry Grier, Ryerson President Emeritus
“Jack Layton’s Political Journey: From the Classroom to National Icon”.

Terry Grier discusses Jack as student, teacher and political leader.
(See Poster Above)

Session 2

Thursday 28 March 2013
5:30 PM, Archives, 3rd Floor, Ryerson Library, 350 Victoria Street.

Dr. Alex Wellington, Philosophy Department, Ryerson University

“Jack Layton’s Environmental Vision: Green Economy and Climate Justice”

We will look at two books that reflect Jack’s contributions to environmental activism and climate justice: Guy Dauncy’s Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change and Tim Flannery’s Now or Never.

Session 3

Wednesday 10 April 2013

5:30 PM, Archives, 3rd Floor, Ryerson Library, 350 Victoria Street.

Dr. Jason Boyd, English Department, Ryerson University

“Pride, Prejudice and Politics:
Jack Layton and the Lessons of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II”

Layton bookplate image

The Jack Layton Book Club is an initiative of the Jack Layton Chair, co-sponsored by the Ryerson University Library and Archives.


Feature from the Collections: Looking Back at the History of the Normal School Building – Part One

Though most current Ryerson students have seen changes that have occurred to the campus with the refurbishment of the Image Arts building, the campus as a whole has not undergone many substantial architectural changes in the past few years. Most students recognize the school in a much similar way to how it would have been years before them. However, if one looks back to the fifties, the campus did not hold the modern buildings it is now comprised of.

Inside the Kerr Hall quadrangle of our modern Ryerson campus stands, in its original position, what may be unofficially known to present-day students, as the Arch. The building that the Arch belonged to was the Normal School, demolished by 1963 and replaced with Kerr Hall to accommodate the demand of the growing student population at the time. The façade was preserved in memory of Dr. Egerton Ryerson and his contributions to the advancement of education in Ontario.

The first Government House of Upper Canada at King and Simcoe Streets and the first building to house the Normal School in 1847. (from Normal School 2 doc. file; book, Toronto Normal School 1847-1947, printed by Ryerson’s School of Graphic Arts (between 1946 and 1948))

Egerton Ryerson, the superintendent of education from 1846 to 1876, envisioned an improved education system in the Upper Canada province (Ontario), but there was no actual plan of making this possible until he took action in 1846. He was granted permission to occupy the Government House of Upper Canada at King and Simcoe streets where Roy Thomson Hall is located today. The Normal school opened on November 1st, 1847. A normal school, according to Ryerson, is “a school in which the principles and practice of teaching according to rule, are taught and exemplified”. Normale is a French term implying a standard or norm in teaching. It was the first provincial institution for the systematic training of elementary school teachers.

Elementary students of the Model School, just North of the Normal School for pupil teachers. (from Normal School 2 doc. file. (Credit:  Toronto Reference Library, T12242)

In 1849, the government required immediate occupation of the Government House premises and the Normal school was to be vacated. The school then moved to Temperance Hall for three years on Temperance Street, situated below Richmond Street between Yonge and Bay streets. But it was unsuitable and inconvenient. Eventually, the site of St. James Square, on Gould Street, was acquired and proved to be suitable for the Normal school as well as its later development to a polytechnic institute and even later to becoming Ryerson University.

The area surrounded by Gould, Victoria, Gerrard, and Church streets was purchased in 1849. The buildings were designed in a classical revival style on the exterior (like civic buildings of the time) and had a gothic-style interior (like educational institutions of the time) by F.W. Cumberland and Thomas Ridout. The Normal School was a two storey building that took three years to complete. The Normal School was for instruction of the pupil teachers by lecture, and the Model School, just north of it, was where they would practice teaching elementary school students.

The Normal School wasn’t solely dedicated to classrooms. The structure also housed the Council of Public Instruction chamber and the various branches of the Education Department. There was also a theatre, an art gallery, two rooms for a museum (which was open to the public free of charge), and a book depository. The property also contained fruit, vegetable, and botanical gardens, a small arboretum, and two acres for agricultural experiments.

The school opened on November 24th, 1852.

To see the Normal School model as well as images of the original building, please visit the Ryerson University Archives located on the third floor of the Library.  Archives hours are Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

And now, stay tuned for the second part of the history of the Normal School and why only its façade remains standing today.

#WIRED: A Digital History of Ryerson University

 “Computing will most undoubtedly prove to be the most significant development to technology in the second half of the twentieth century. The extent to which Ryerson students graduate with a firm understanding of this new and exciting field, will greatly affect their ability to contribute to society.” 

– L.B. Moore, Director of the Ryerson Computing Centre, 1973.

A classroom scene in the Secretarial Science program, 1962. (RG 95.1.1679.10)

A classroom scene in the Secretarial Science program, 1962. (RG 95.1.1679.10)

Ryerson University began as a polytechnic institute devoted to the training of students in applied technology. This technical history has informed Ryerson’s identity and culture, playing a significant role in the way the University defines its relationship to the digital age. As we enter an era of ever changing technology and a digitally-connected society, a look back at the early days of computing at Ryerson highlights the development of a digital campus and its impact on the Ryerson way of life.


The computer centre with DAISY and connected terminals.

Ryerson’s first computer centre with DAISY and connected terminals. (RG 63.72)

Always at the forefront of innovation, Ryerson’s early use of computing technology began in the 1960s when Ryerson was one of the first institutions to acquire a general purpose computer, an IBM Model 360-30, affectionately nicknamed “DAISY” (Direct Access Information System).

"Daisy" Chooses Miss Ryerson '68. One of the many "jobs" DAISY was tasked with. (The Rambler, Summer 1968)

“Daisy” Chooses Miss Ryerson ’68”. One of the many “jobs” DAISY performed. (The Rambler, Summer 1968)

It’s difficult to imagine a world without smart phones or even personal computers, but the early days of computing at Ryerson involved the use of one centralized system that students would line up to use. Eventually this changed to include the addition of terminals throughout campus that would connect via Bell phone lines to the main computer. The main functions were academic and administration assistance, including student registration, payroll, scheduling, grades, library circulation, and the occasional selection of Miss Ryerson.

"DAISY LOVES ME" Button. Students had a hate/love relationship with the overworked computer. (RG 63.71)

“DAISY LOVES ME” Button. Students had a hate/love relationship with the overworked computer. (RG 63.71)

DAISY was not without its quirks. Nearing the end of its life-cycle the first model would confuse library punch cards and harass students with overdue notices on books that had been returned. In 1975 DAISY took the initiative of creating a brand new Journalism class consisting of three surprised students.

DAISY would be upgraded three times, 1967, 1969, and up to an IBM Model 360-65 in 1973, which contained 256 kilobytes of core memory and cost the annual amount of $404,000.

A woman in the computer centre "batching" punch card instructions to DAISY.

A woman in the computer centre “batching” punch card instructions to DAISY. (RG 63.72)

The process of running a “job” or task included manually typing programming instructions into a “punch” card, feeding the card into the computer terminal, which would then process the program and data, and print out the results. This process was called “batching”, and would continue until the 1980s, when the University realized the technology was quickly becoming obsolete. The ever-increasing rate of change and the resulting obsolete formats is a factor which would continue to define digital technology into the twenty-first century.


Official Opening York-Ryerson Computing Centre Program (RG 281.23)

Official Opening York-Ryerson Computing Centre Program (RG 281.23)

In 1974 the Joint York-Ryerson Computing Centre established the first cooperative computing centre in Canada with the objective of sharing expertise and reducing costs. This resulted in the end of DAISY, which was dismantled and returned to the American company from which it was leased. The first of its kind in Canada, the YRCC operated with the main computer at York and connected terminals at Ryerson.


The official opening of the Ryerson Computer Centre with Ryerson President Brian Segal, 1983.

The official opening of the Ryerson Computer Centre with former Ryerson President Brian Segal, 1983. (RG 95.37.9)

In the late 70s, the demand for more computers and processing capabilities gave rise to student protests over the lack of computer resources. The computer centre was so overwhelmed that they implemented restrictions and quotas on accessing the computer mainframe. Each department would receive an allotment for its students to use throughout the semester; if a student ran out of credit, then they would have to petition for increased time. In 1979 the situation escalated to the point of violence, in which a student was stabbed in the arm with a pen when he attempted to use someone’s punch-card terminal.

The Beginner's Guide to the Ryerson Mainframe, 1992. (RG 63.74)

The Beginner’s Guide to the Ryerson Mainframe, 1992.
(RG 63.74)

In 1983, IBM donated $3.7 million worth of computer hardware and software to Ryerson, at the time the largest single donation to the institute. The equipment, an IBM 3033 processor, 300 terminals, five personal computers and advanced software, created an on-line interactive system and established the Ryerson Computing Centre.


Bard vs. Byte (The Ryerson Rambler, Fall 1981)

Bard vs. Byte (The Ryerson Rambler, Fall 1981)

Ryerson Library was an early adopter of computer technology on campus. The early days of libraries consisted of card catalogues and handwritten entries signing out books. In the second half of the 20th century, this rapidly changed to an electronic format that would alter the way knowledge was organized and retrieved.

Library book lending insert. (RG 5.204)

Library book lending insert. (RG 5.204)

For Ryerson Library the shift to digital began in 1968 when the library converted the author, title and catalogue data for all books to machine-readable form, implementing an electronic circulation control system to keep track of books. Students would no longer sign out books, but punch out computer cards.

Ryerson Library Circulation Book Card. (RG 5.204)

Ryerson Library Circulation Book Card. (RG 5.204)

In 1978, Ryerson library became the first library in North America to operate its circulation system on-line using DOBIS/LIBIS, a computerized library system developed by IBM in Europe. DOBIS (Dortmund Bibliotek System) replaced the dated Mohawk punch-card circulation system.

Ryerson becomes the first North American University to install an online Library system. An explanation of the new DOBIS Library system with former President Walter Pitman, 1978. (RG 5.74)

The official opening of the Library’s online DOBIS/LIBIS system with former President Walter Pitman, 1978. (RG 5.74)

The circulation function involved the first-time use of barcode labels affixed to books and ID badges read by an IBM optical scanner. Throughout the 80s and 90s technological advancement in the library would continue, including the establishment of its first computer lab in 1982, as well as developments in subject indexing and electronic resources.


Crack the code is a scavenger hunt developed by Ryerson mobile. (DOC File)

Crack the code is a scavenger hunt developed by Ryerson mobile in 2010. (DOC File)

In the last quarter century Ryerson University has paved the way for technology-driven learning. This can most clearly be seen with the new Student Learning Centre, which promises to provide an interactive environment employing the latest in digital technology. Projects such as the Digital Media Zone act as an incubator for Ryerson students to collaborate in the design and implementation of digital tools and apps. Accessible technology has placed students at the centre of e-learning, furthering the role students have in shaping their education and campus environment. These developments would not be possible without the small but significant steps taken in the 1960s towards a progressive, digital future.

An IBM 2260 terminal in the Ryerson Computer Centre, c. 1970s. (RG The Beginner's Guide to the Ryerson Mainframe, 1992. (RG 63.72)

An IBM 2260 terminal in the Ryerson Computer Centre, c. 1970.
(RG 63.72)

Bringing together diverse artifacts and historical materials from the Ryerson Archives, #WIRED is an exhibition that highlights pivotal moments in the digital evolution of Ryerson University. To learn more about the early history of computing at Ryerson and view the artifacts on display, please visit the Ryerson Archives during our office hours, Monday – Friday, 9 -5pm.

The War of 1812, Two Hundred Years Ago

As 2012 and the commemoration of the War of 1812 draws to an end, we invite you to take one more look back – this time, at the connection between Ryerson University and the War of 1812.  Think of six degrees of separation.

June 18th 2012 marked the two hundred year anniversary of the War of 1812. The War of 1812 was a military conflict declared by the United States onto Great Britain because the United States felt continuous economic restrictions and resistance to expansion from Great Britain. Invasions on both sides were either unsuccessful or temporary, and on February 20th, 1815, the Treaty of Ghent was issued and peace was restored.

Canada celebrates the war as laying the foundation for its future nationhood as well as its victory in preventing the United States from expanding onto its territory. Ryerson University is named after Egerton Ryerson, a great patron of the educational system in Canada. Egerton Ryerson became an honoured citizen for his contributions to his community, much like his father had but for different reasons. His father, Joseph Ryerson, served in numerous official capacities his entire life, being just fifteen years old when he joined the army for the first time.

The Joseph Ryerson Memorial Plaque, located in the St. James Cathedral, Toronto

In 1812, Isaac Brock served Joseph Ryerson a certificate of commission as the Lieutenant Colonel Commanding the First Regiments of the Norfolk Militia. His brother, Samuel Ryerson, also served in the war in repelling the American invaders as did Joseph’s three eldest of six sons, George, William, and John. Egerton’s young age prevented him from following in their footsteps and he instead focused on his studies, which led him to becoming a notable person as an educator, minister, and politician.

Letter from Captain James Brock (cousin and secretary to Sir Isaac Brock) enclosing commissions of officers of 72 1st Norfolk Militia to Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Ryerson, 1812. (Ryerson Family Papers, Ryerson Archives)

When the War ended, Joseph Ryerson and his family went on to continue life in the County of Norfolk. Joseph Ryerson handed in his letter of resignation in 1830 not out of an unwillingness to serve but from an inability to do so due to illness and advanced age.

Joseph Ryerson’s Letter of Resignation, 1830. (Ryerson Family Papers,  Ryerson Archives)

The images above and below are from the Ryerson Family Papers, currently on display in the Ryerson Archives. They are a collection of documents and correspondence of four generations of the Ryerson family, including that pertaining to Joseph Ryerson and his service in the War. His efforts during the War, as well as that of all those involved, are remembered and recognized two hundred years later and for many years to come.

The Ryerson Family Papers, Sir Isaac Brock on left; officers commission on right (Ryerson Archives)

The Ryerson Family Papers displayed at the Ryerson Archives. A collection of documents and correspondence pertaining to four generations of the Ryerson family, assembled and organized scrapbook-style in a leather-bound volume. Approximately 130 of 173 pages are filled.

So, how many degrees of separation is there from the War of 1812 to the University?  Answer:  four degrees, excluding the last, a name change, as follows – 
War of 1812 -> Joseph Ryerson (father) -> Adolphus Egerton Ryerson (son) -> Normal School building which Egerton built in 1852 -> the same building became Ryerson Institute of Technology in 1948 -> finally, a name change to Ryerson University.

Before the Ryerson Family Papers are removed from display for preservation, rush to the Ryerson Archives to see this historical manuscript. The Ryerson University Archives, third floor of the Library; open Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Jack Layton Website and Archival Display





As part of the on campus events commemorating Jack Layton’s legacy at Ryerson university and his lasting impact on Canada, the Ryerson archives have installed a display featuring items from his recently donated archival collection. The display is open for viewing during the archive’s regular hours, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.



In addition to the archival display, a new website has been created.  The site features a collection of images and student newspaper clippings, digitized copies of some of Layton’s personally annotated books, audio visual clips, and memories from his teaching days at Ryerson.   You can help celebrate Jack Layton’s life and legacy by visiting and consider sharing your own stories of how Jack had an impact on you.


A Call to Arms

They date back to the 12th Century and European knights. Knights painted them on their shields as a form of identification in battle. They have always been a symbol of honour, pride and bravery. Many governments have one as do many academic institutions. Ryerson University has one – an official Coat of Arms

Official coats of arms are made up of required components. Each component is a depiction of a particular group of people. The components typically are a central shield (or a military ‘coat’), two supporters on either side, a helmet or hat above with billowing fabric or ribbons, a twisted roll of fabric called a torse or wreath, topped off with a crest of any number of representations, for example an animal’s front half, top half of a human, a bird, or bird’s wings, etc.

The Back Story of Ryerson’s Coat of Arms

In the first year (1948) of Ryerson Institute of Technology, Howard H. Kerr, the school’s first and only principal, saw the school’s potential as a so-called “MIT of the North” and visited Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For Kerr, a coat of arms would be the symbol that would establish the school as a legitimate institution.

So inspired by MIT, Kerr borrowed their motto Mente et Manu (With Mind and Hand). However, officially belonging to MIT, the motto was changed by 1950 to a similar version, Mente et Artificio (With Mind and Skill). Both were used on crests, such as the one below:

Ryerson’s First Motto
part of a 1950’s Crest

"With Mind and Hand", original Ryerson motto found on the crest in the 1950s (from Coat-of-Arms – Ryerson doc. file)

“With Mind and Hand”
(first Coat of Arms documentation file)

Second and Current Motto
part of a 1950’s crest

"With Mind and Skill", official motto of the Ryerson Coat-of-Arms (from Ryerson's 1952 yearbook inside cover page)

“With Mind and Skill”
(Ryerson’s 1952 yearbook inside cover)

Proceeding to apply for an official coat of arms in the 1960s, Kerr found himself persuading the College of Arms in London, England that Ryerson was worthy of its own unique design. It was granted in 1966 (Delcaration of of Letters of Ryerson’s coat of arms is pictured at end of this blog.)

And so, with Ryerson having its own official identity and coat of arms, coupled with the reputation of a sound fully-rounded technical education, recognition grew. The number of Ryerson high school applicants for the fall of 2012, as reported soon after the January 11, 2012 deadline, was for the first time the highest in the province at 40,553.

What follows is an explanation of Ryerson’s coat of arms and what Ryerson stands for and the coat of arms below of reference.

(Appears on both rams)
The symbol of light, education, liberty, and increasing knowledge.

Lamp of Learning:
(Appears on the shield) 
The symbol of intelligence and giving forth the flame of the spirit within. It is the light in the darkness, a symbol for inspiration.

Set Square:
(Used for technical drawings; appears on shield)
The symbol of artifact, construction, building, the practical and material.

Maple leaves, representing Ryerson’s Canadian heritage.

(Two are supporters and one is the crest)
The ram, or aries, is a constellation representing our creative impulse through which potential becomes actual. In astrology, the aries governs the head and the brain.

 Mente et Artificio

While the coat of arms is reserved for use by the Chancellor’s Office and President’s Office, it is found in a number of places. The symbol is used for various official scholarly documents, but cannot be used for general information pieces such as flyers and brochures. If one would like to use a replication of the coat of arms, special permission must be requested.

You may also have seen the coat of arms or the crest on items such as university jackets, pins, and plastic book bags. Samples of some of these can be found at the Ryerson Archives; here are two clothing crest:

Souvenir clothing patches containing the motto and coat-of-arms. (RG 296.21)

Souvenir clothing patches containing the motto and coat of arms. (RG 296.21)

As there has only ever been one official coat of arms for Ryerson, other emblems of note were used before its creation. Below are some examples of related symbols of the past used to represent Ryerson:

The crest is a blue and gold logo symbolizing learning and knowledge (the flame). The trilliums, as Ontario’s official flower, represents the Province of Ontario. It was popular in yearbooks and on graduation rings. (from Coat of Arms – Ryerson doc. file)

 This symbol contains the main heraldic symbols of the coat-of-arms. In this case, there is only one ram. (from the Academic Calendar covers 1965-66)

This symbol contains the main heraldic symbols of the coat of arms. In this case, there is only one ram. (from the Academic Calendar covers 1965-66)

This Ryerson stamp could be found on documents and in yearbooks. It was not as popular as it received criticism for resembling an unattractive meat stamp or cobweb. (from the Coat of Arms – Ryerson doc. file)

The letterhead was created by Dennis Milton in 1964. The aesthetic of the letters are inspired by the shape of books. (from the Academic Calendar cover 1964-65)

To see samples of the Ryerson coat of arms and related symbols and documents, or for more information, please visit the Ryerson University Archives located on the third floor of the library, open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Declaration of Letters Patent of the Coat of Arms (above) hung in President’s office 1966 – 2013. Framed coat of arms (bottom). Both on display in Ryerson University Archives.

The Circle K Club

An important component in defining the post-secondary experience is being able to take part in a club, sport, or other form of organization. Circle K International is the largest service-oriented, leadership-training, collegiate organization in the world and is a member of the Kiwanis International’s sponsored program. It is the university level of the Kiwanis Club but it maintains self-direction from its sponsor. There are currently over eleven thousand members in over five hundred colleges and universities worldwide.  

Circle K International brochure (RG 64.20)

The Ryerson Circle K Club banner (viewable at the Ryerson Archives)

Ryerson’s Circle K Club belonged to the Eastern Canada and Caribbean District, one of the oldest districts. It was chartered at Ryerson on February 16, 1955 and became the second Circle K Club of the district. Ryerson’s Circle K Club included the clubs of Waterloo, Western, and Queen’s Universities as well as Ridgetown, Fanshawe, and Chicoutimi Colleges. It was the oldest continuous club in the district until it became inactive in 1988.   

Ryerson Circle K Club flyer (RG 64.12)

Circle K was:
  • A student movement: Students were becoming more and more interested in their environment and the surrounding issues such as lower school spirit, lack of trust in the government, and uncertainty for the future. Circle K allowed students to help shape their environment.
  • A people organization: People are both the cause and cure of problems. Circle K was interested in helping find a better life and a better world.
  • Involved with environmental, community, health, and student concerns. It raised funds for activities and charities and also attended to social issues on campus and in the community.

Member Handbook (RG 54.16)

The Circle K Club meetings were public and any student could join as long as they had good character and an adequate academic standing. They held a weekly one-hour meeting, which was the minimum involvement for maintaining membership.

The Circle K gong used at the weekly meetings (RG 64.29)

The motto for Circle K is “We Build”. The 1980 Ryerson Circle K President, Mark Donner, said the “main goal is to develop brotherhood and fellowship” through helping people.

Circle K advertisement in the 1980 School Calendar (RG 64.4)

Some of the main objectives of Circle K were to:

  • give primacy to human and spiritual rather than material values of life
  • encourage the daily living of the Golden Rule in all human relationships
  • develop a more intelligent, aggressive, and serviceable citizenship
  • promote the advantages of the democratic way of life
  • encourage the application of higher social and professional standards
  • participate in group activities, creating sound public opinion and high idealism

The Circle K Club School Calendar, 1980 (RG 64.4)

The Circle K Club at Ryerson found many ways of being involved. They organized dance marathons, car rallies, charity casino nights for cystic fibrosis, Shinerama, movie screenings, luncheons, parties, and blood drives at the school and provided funding for first year students with financial difficulties. One of their first campaigns was a safe driving campaign among students and staff.

The Man of the Year Award, presented by Circle K (Artifact #108)

Other events were bingo nights at a senior citizens’ home, sports nights at a local youth club, activities for mentally and physically disabled children, and career night for the Parkdale Boys and Girls Club. They aided organizations such the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, the Big Brother and Big Sister Programs, and the Endangered Animal Sanctuary.

Samples of flyers by the Circle K Club (RG 64.12)

One of Circle K’s major advocacies was the blood clinics since the clinics first came to Ryerson. As incentives to donate blood, the Club issued prizes such as trophies, monetary awards, and dinner for two during their “bleed off” contests between course unions. 

Blood Donor Clinic posters (left: RG 64.12, right: RG 64.12)

The Blood Donor Clinic at Ryerson, organized by the Circle K Club (RG 64.22)

What was once a club with as many as thirty-five members in the mid-1960s became a club with only six members by the 1980s. Low revenue at fundraisers as well as low turnout at clinics were partly the result of this lack of internal participation. Chuck Menezies, the 1978 Circle K Vice-President, attributed the demise to the club’s straight image as well as to the growing influence of the Student Union.

The Student Union became the leading campus organization and soon became involved with tasks that Circle K had been handling previously. They took over management of the used book store, the cloak room, the lost and found, and helped organize the blood clinics. The interest in and influence of the Circle K Club diminished and by 1988 the club was abolished.

Circle K Club Rally (RG 64.22)

 For more information, please visit the Ryerson University Archives located on the third floor of the library, open in July and August on Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Feature from the Collections: Ryerson Opera Workshop

This past weekend the Ryerson Theatre School celebrated its 40th anniversary, but the history of student theatre on campus goes back well beyond that of the school. In 1951 the Ryerson Opera Workshop was first offered, headed up by English professor Jack McAllister. Students across campus, in any program, were invited to participate. The inaugural production was an exciting double bill of The Devil and Daniel Webster and Down in the Valley; the first was a re-telling of the classic Faust tale using a poor farmer as the lead character who sells his soul to the devil, and the second, a folk-opera peppered with famous American songs, including the titular “Down in the Valley.” According to newspaper reviews at the time, the shows were a success for the new Workshop.

Newspaper photo of the cast of "The Devil and Daniel Webster" from The Alumni Reporter, Fall 1952 RG718-4

Although the name implies something different today, the Opera Workshops focused on popular musical theatre, and the repertoire included Broadway hits like Once Upon a Mattress, Bye Bye Birdie, Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, The Beggar’s Opera and Peter Pan.

In the 1970s, Ryerson established the Theatre School and became one of the first professional schools in North America to offer training in all aspects of the theatre arts, from technical production to arts administration. It wasn’t long after the first cohort of theatre students appeared on campus that the extracurricular productions of the Ryerson Opera Workshops finally ceased. The last performance by the Opera Workshop was a children’s show entitled Stick with Molasses (1976). Today, the popular student musicals are replaced by an ambitious program of student-driven work throughout the year.

Scene from "The Beggar's Opera" 1952 RG718-3

Playbill for the 1953 production of "Brigadoon" RG718-3

Scene from "Brigadoon" RG718-3

Program for "Once Upon a Mattress" 1963, the last production in Old Ryerson Hall Theatre RG718-2

Scene from "Once Upon a Mattress" RG718-3

Playbill for the 1964 production of "Brigadoon," the first production in the new Ryerson Theatre RG718-2

Scene from "Brigadoon" 1964 RG718-2

Playbill for "Bye Bye Birdie" 1966 RG718-3

Scene from "Bye Bye Birdie" RG718-3

Playbill for "Alice in Wonderland" 1970 RG718-2

Actors in character for "Alice in Wonderland" 1970 RG718-3

Newspaper clipping with a picture from the last Ryerson Opera Workshop production on Nov. 25, 1976, "Stick with Molasses" RG718-4