A moment in history: Aug. 2, 1977

A moment in history: Aug. 2, 1977

· The Pulse

On this day in 1977, a newspaper ad encouraged people to "start a learning revolution" at NAIT.

The distinctly '70s-style piece promises to help students "capture a career," enticing them into NAIT's instrumentation engineering technology program.

The idea for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology was born at the tail end of the 1950s during a push for more technical and applied education in Canada. The Alberta government was looking for such a school in Edmonton to complement the education offered by Calgary's Provincial Institute of Technology. (That school's name would change to SAIT when its northern sibling opened.)

The province announced the NAIT plan in 1959. Three years later, construction began on the institutes's $14-million campus. But classes would start before the building was finished. In October of 1962, NAIT's first 29 students began studying to become communication electricians.

Premier Ernest Manning officially opened the school in May 1963. A recently unearthed program from NAIT's first year shows that the courses were offered in three general areas — technology, business education/vocation, and apprenticeships. Under those categories, students could get instruction in everything from heavy-duty equipment to banking to commercial cooking.

Another prominent feature touted at the opening was the NAIT mural — or, as the program insists it is called, the "rustic mosaic picture." It was designed by Austria-born artist Alexander von Svoboda, whose mosaic work can be spotted in several other places in Edmonton, including at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. The mosaic, which was assembled in Toronto and then reconstructed in Edmonton, contains more than 600 pieces and represents some of the subjects and disciplines taught at the institute.

It would only be a couple of years before NAIT would construct the T-Building, the first of several expansions over the years. While the main campus would see new land purchased and new buildings put up over the decades, NAIT would also open satellite campuses: Patricia Campus in 1975, the Souch Campus in southern Edmonton (named for a former president of NAIT) in 1998, and a Spruce Grove campus in 2016.

For the first 20 years of its life, NAIT was directly administered by the Alberta government. A big shift came in 1982 when the province handed over control to a board of directors, which governs the institution to this day.

As technology has changed, so have the programs offered by NAIT. Students can now study topics ranging from IT to environmental science to media and communications. And the campus looks much different from how it was when it opened 60 years ago. However, some of the original elements remain, including von Svoboda's original rustic mosaic picture, which was recently restored following decades of exposure to Edmonton's demanding climate.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera.