Alma College

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Alma College

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Alma College was established as Alma Ladies College by the General Council of the Methodist Church in 1877. The charter was granted by an Act of Legislature on March 2, 1877. Alma College was owned and operated by the Methodist Church. The school was known as St. Thomas Ladies College until early in 1877 when the responsibility of naming the school was bestowed upon Sheriff Colin Munroe. He named the school Alma after his daughter and recently deceased wife. Alma College officially opened as a liberal arts school for young women on Thursday October 13, 1881. The college colours were chosen to represent the three original departments: red for music, gold for art and blue for literature. The school became recognized for the training it provided in music, drama, and the arts. It also became well-known for the strong representation of international students throughout school history. Between 1881 and ca. 1930 the College’s post-elementary level curriculum gradually evolved from that of a traditional liberal arts finishing school to private university prep school to Ontario Department of Education-sanctioned secondary school. Alma College was open to day students as early as 1907. A junior school for girls under 13 years of age was also opened in the same year, offering elementary or public school-level education (although as early as 1899 the College was enrolling students in its “Preparatory Department,” whose course of study included “Public School” grammar, arithmetic and geography). The ownership and operational management of Alma College was transferred from the Methodist Church of Canada as a result of the formation of the United Church of Canada in 1925. In 1950 the College limited instruction in its elementary-level Junior School to grades seven and eight, and beginning with the school year commencing September 1959, the College ceased operating its Junior School altogether, limiting academic instruction to grades 9-13. In 1974 the College began offering a course in Family Studies. To provide practice teaching opportunities for the secondary school students taking this course, the College re-established its Junior School for the 1975-76 school year as a co-educational day school encompassing pre-school, junior kindergarten and kindergarten. Also in 1975, a portion of the new residence was opened as Valleyview Satellite Home, a residence for female seniors. Alma College was designated as a provincial historic site on October 28, 1976 in commemoration of the school’s centennial. In 1989 the secondary school closed as a result of a labour dispute. However, the primary and music school continued. Following the closure, two companies were formed: Alma College St. Thomas and the Warner Endowment Fund. The two new corporations were chartered federally in November 1990 to separate the operations of Alma College from the trusteeship of the Warner Endowment Fund. The Warner Endowment Fund was created by the ex-students of Alma College on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of their Alma Mater and in memory of past princple Doctor Warner and his wife Mrs. Warner. Alma College separated from the United Church of Canada in 1991. Alma's Music School, Junior School and Kindergarten were scheduled to re-open on September 6, 1994, but were permanently cancelled on September 2. The secondary school was also scheduled to re-open as a co-ed facility in September. However, low enrolment was cited as problematic and the school did not re-open. Alma College finally closed in September 1994. Alma College was sold by approval of the Ontario court to Royal Cambridge Corporation, who intended to reopen the college as a co-educational institution, in January 1996. However Royal Cambridge Corporation defaulted on their mortgage payments and the college was offered up for sale once again. In August 1996 the Alma College International Alumnae Association reached an agreement with the receivers Price Waterhouse Ltd. to purchase Alma College. However in December the alumnae’s offer was rejected by the court in favour of a third offer from Royal Cambridge Corporation. Royal Cambridge Corporation again received court approval to purchase Alma College in order to open a co-educational college. By December 1997 Royal Cambridge Corporation defaulted on their mortgage payments and never succeeded in opening the school. In May 1998 a judicial sale of the buildings was conducted and aborted because all bids fell short of the reserve bid. Alma College was finally sold to a London development company led by Mr. Brian Squires in August 1998.

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