News and Events

On Campus: Closet historian

May 28, 2015
Written by Mark Keller, director of college advancement
Featured in"On Campus" in the Medicine Hat News

Please don’t tell my boss but I’m having an inordinate amount of fun poking at old, dusty files as we gear up to celebrate the college’s 50th anniversary.

The college’s collection of history and memorabilia over the years has been, umm, ‘inconsistent’ but perhaps the results are all the more interesting because of that. You’re never quite sure if the folder you open will contain mundane memos or remarkable gems.

I discovered one diamond-quality piece of college and community history in a file folder containing relics of the fifth anniversary celebration in 1970: The Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker, then Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan, spoke at banquet here on Jan. 18, 1971.

For me, that was a “wow” moment. Diefenbaker feels legendary to me. My spouse even attended a Calgary high school named for the man.

We’ve retained correspondence between the college and the former prime minster of Canada, and even have Diefenbaker’s hand-signed letter of acceptance.

I couldn’t contain the urge and checked online to see if copies of Diefenbaker’s signature have value. My discovery: some have price tags up to $1,000 (though those seem related to his years as prime minister.) If you’re looking to buy, please accept my apologies as our Diefenbaker correspondence will stay safe in archives.

Some of these trails to the college’s past tell stories of growth and accomplishment. I understand why they’ve been kept all these years, no doubt making moves from office to office as the college evolved over time. However, other files in the same collection may have somewhat less value.

For example, my early interest in a yellow file folder overflowing with paperwork from the college’s 25th anniversary celebrations quickly turned to disappointment.

I was hoping for details, explanations and interesting tidbits of the human drama that makes up our small community. Alas, the folder contains multiple copies of agendas, meeting minutes and memos, rather than information that would expand upon the human story of MHC.

What I found most interesting was the reminder that it wasn’t so long ago that business was conducted via the typewritten memo and interoffice mail. The language of these documents — circulated to departments, committees and people — seems so structured and formal compared to the emails we dash off to one another these days.

And that remarkable note from John G. Diefenbaker uses a graceful style from another era altogether. In closing, he writes, “With all good wishes, I am, Yours Sincerely.” That one short, elegant line made today’s trip through college history rewarding.

I’m sure there are more treasures to find on campus.