Fonds - Alma College fonds

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Alma College fonds

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  • 1877-1997 (Creation)

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14.8 m of textual records ca. 2500 photographs : b&w and col. 2 audio tapes 1 video tape The condition of the material varies from poor to excellent. The majority of the records are in good condition.

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Administrative history

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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Custodial history

The Alma College Archives was established in 1985 to preserve both the records of the college and the Alma College International Alumnae Association. The college retained custody of the records on site until the Alma College Board of Management filed for bankruptcy in September 1994. On October 19, 1994 Price Waterhouse Inc. of London was appointed interim receiver and therefore obtained custody and responsibility for the records of Alma College. By permission of the court the alumnae association purchased the records in November 1997. Soon after, the alumnae association moved the records to Central United Church in St. Thomas where the records were sorted. The business and personal records were subsequently transferred to the United Church of Canada Archives. Student transcripts were transferred to the Ontario Ministry of Education. The alumnae originally intended to donate the remaining records to the Elgin County Pioneer Museum. However, Mr. Steve Peters, the Mayor of St. Thomas at the time and past volunteer Archivist for Alma College, offered an empty office at City Hall for storage of the remaining records in November 1998. Subsequently, the alumnae then moved the records to Raven's Shoe Store in St. Thomas. In March 2000 the records were furthermore moved from the shoe store to the Elgin County Administration Building. At the 2002 Alma College International Alumnae Association Reunion, the alumnae voted to transfer the records to the Elgin County Archives. The alumnae donated the records to the Elgin County Archives later the same year.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of the records of the Alma College Board of Management, Council, Senate and Students' Council and includes correspondence, accounts, minutes, photographs, negatives, scrapbooks, student newspapers, yearbooks, programs and invitations to special events, blueprints and plans, and prospectuses. Scrapbooks, photograph albums and memorabilia kept by students and staff are also included. The fonds will be of particular interest to historians seeking information about Alma College in particular and about the administration, staffing, curriculum, academic standards and student life of Canadian and international women’s private boarding schools in general. The fonds will also interest students of denominational educational institutions in Canada, particularly those administered by the Methodist/United Church. Historians will also find the fonds useful for investigating the social history and commercial development of the city of St. Thomas and Elgin County, as the records provide voluminous information about local events, institutions, businesses and individuals through their interaction with Alma College and its students and staff. Genealogists seeking information about particular students and staff will find the student records and staff registers invaluable. Fonds is comprised of the following series: Scrapbooks Alma The Almafilian Board of Management records Board of Management Executive Committee Prospectuses Special Events Student records Mary Powell MacKellar records Miss Bone records Staff records Student grades The Alma Mater Record and log books Kate Johnson MacTavish records Contents of the Cornerstone General Correspondence Miscellaneous records Accounts Fundraising records Photographs Blueprints and building records Student Council minutes The Bulletin and Alumnae correspondence Alumnae index cards The Alma Buzzer The Doughnut Marriage Registers May Day 50th Anniversary 75th Anniversary 100th Anniversary Graduation records Diplomas Advertisements and posters Music building records Academics at Alma Alma Students' Guides and A-B-C Alma College Directories Alma College Address lists Student lists Staff lists Student profiles Letters of permission Student grades Senate minutes Alma College Council minutes

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Fonds was donated by the Alma College International Alumnae Association to the Elgin County Archives in 2002.


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Alma College International Alumnae Association fonds

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Explore our digitization project Toujours en Avant: A Pictorial History or view thematic galleries documenting the history of the college.

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