When SAIT opened its doors in 1916, it had a tiny Inglewood campus, a different name — the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art — and 11 students. Airplanes were in their infancy and computers weren’t even on the radar. Actually, radar hadn’t been invented yet, either.
An incredible amount of innovation happened in the 20th century and SAIT was in lockstep with those advances as each decade passed, offering applied learning that changed lives and built careers.
It’s part of the reason why the Institute is so excited about this historic milestone — one that very few in Western Canada have had the chance to celebrate. But marking the 100-year anniversary is about far more than hosting a party. Planning for the centennial celebrations began more than a year ago and Catherine Downey was recently brought in on an extended contract to lead the centennial initiative. She will be working to bring together SAIT’s many constituents from the city, the province, the country and the world: alumni, students, faculty, employees, donors, industry and community partners, and friends.
“SAIT’s second century wouldn’t be possible without the many forward-thinking people who have contributed to its success in its first 100 years. Rather than events and celebrations characterized by nostalgia, we want to show people what they’ve helped build, with programming that honours milestones of the past as stepping stones to the future,” says Brian Bowman, SAIT’s Director of Alumni and Development. “Cathy is an experienced senior leader, a strategic planner and a digital media authority, and her arrival signals the beginning of the planning and implementation phase — a critical part of the project.”
As someone who has created many strategic plans and teaches on the subject, Downey is already hard at work gathering information and beginning to create a framework for the centennial’s programs.
She began the process by learning more about what SAIT has to offer. “I’m amazed by the incredible depth and breadth of SAIT’s offerings. I’ve already observed a live simulation of a hospital emergency room, toured world-class labs and discovered that the School of Hospitality and Tourism has its own bee colony. And that’s really just a taste of what there is to know.”
While the project is still in its infancy, Downey says that the opportunities to collaborate, share stories and get involved will be numerous.
“There is still much work to do and many exciting programs to plan, but one thing that will definitely be part of the centennial — and something I’m excited about — is cracking open the time capsule that has a plaque saying it contains ‘greetings to those who will celebrate the centennial in the year 2016,’” says Downey. ”I (not so secretly) hope that in 2116 everyone planning the 200th anniversary will be thinking, ‘I hope we can do this half as well as they did it in 2016.’”