Alexander College

Alexander College Fredericton

Alexander College

Alexander College was the auxiliary college established to accommodate the influx of veterans post-Second World War. It was named for Governor General Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis: British military commander and Field Master who served in both world wars; the last non-Canadian-born Governor General of Canada (1946-1952). It was located on the Fredericton Exhibition Grounds between Smythe Street and Saunders Street in Fredericton.

Originally a Non-Permanent Active Militia Training Centre, the base became a basic training centre 15 February 1941 and later became the No. 70 Canadian Infantry (Basic) Training Centre 15 November 1943.

In the summer of 1946, the University of New Brunswick signed a four year lease with the Fredericton Exhibition grounds, which included use of the Fredericton Exhibition grounds and its buildings, though the race track, grandstand and stables remained under the control of the Exhibition Company. 

Alexander College Accommodations
Alexander College accommodations, ca.1947. UA PC 9 no. 25 (8)

UNB converted a portion of the huts into living quarters and classrooms in late 1945 to prepare for the influx of veterans who enrolled at UNB for the Winter 1946 semester.

During the years immediately after WWII, enrollment tripled at the University of New Brunswick as returning veterans took advantage of the Canadian government’s pledge to offer returning soldiers the opportunity for a free university education. All but four of these veterans were men. The four women veterans, Kathleen Gough, Frances Graham, Margaret McElveny, and F. Isabel (Johnston) Learmouth, all took classes with the men but the university made no special living arrangements for them. Unlike their male counterparts, they were not eligible to live at Alexander College.

UNB’s President, Milton Gregg decided that Alexander College should have its own Dean, hiring Major D. Kermode Parr who, along with his wife, moved into a hut onsite. Mrs. Parr was actively involved in the social life of the College and took a particular interest in the veterans’ wives, who described her as “kindly” and “almost parental.” Mrs. Parr was the Matron Superintendent of the UNB Hospital located on the College grounds, which opened in 1946. Mrs. Black, the wife of a veteran, served as the resident nurse. According to Mrs. Parr, the hospital dealt with “things from porcupine quills to sprained ankles” and always anticipated an increase in patients after a college dance.

As there were so few women veterans at UNB, the most visible women at Alexander College were the wives of the veterans. These women worked to help support their families and tended to the rapidly increasing number of children and babies living at the College. As the walls of the apartments were thin, it was a constant challenge to keep the children quiet so that the men could study. 

Veteran Student and family
One of the veteran students living at Alexander College attempts to finish his drafting assignment while surrounded by his growing family. Note the improvised drafting table made out of his wife’s sewing machine, 1947. UA PC 9; no. 25 (5)

Further accommodations were provided in the fall of 1946, when apartments in Wilmot Park formerly occupied by the Canadian Women’s Army Corps became available for married students with children. A medical centre was also established in the former officers’ mess hall in the fall of 1946, with Mrs. D. K. Parr—wife of Dean Parr—as supervisor and the services of a veteran’s wife, a qualified nurse.

Students of Alexander College had their own Student Representative Council, social groups, and athletic teams. Alexander College students attended classes on the property but travelled up to the main UNB campus for labs.

While much of the encampment was leased to UNB, students had to share some facilities (such as the Drill Hall for sports and indoor recreation) with the army, which used the premises simultaneously.

UNB officially closed Alexander College in June 1950, with the land and buildings reverting back to Fredericton Exhibition Ltd.

Source: UNB Archives & Special Collections

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