Building a Department of Adult Education at the University of British Columbia, 1957-1977


  • Eric Damer University of British Columbia


Education, University History, Eric Damer, HIC, 2002


The diversification of universities into different departments and programs of study have various explanations. The degree program in adult education at the University of British Columbia "the first of its kind in Canada " for example, began with influential administrators who proposed and authorized it in anticipation of student demand. They then hired a professor of adult education, Coolie Verner, who used his considerable institutional status to create a curriculum, attract students, conduct research, and hire additional staff through the 1960s. Although changing circumstances in the following decade lessened Verner's influence, he had created an enduring institutional structure. Verner's activities illustrate the role of individuals and internal politics in determining administrative units at a university and, as a consequence, in legitimizing the research and teaching that occurs within those structures.

Author Biography

Eric Damer, University of British Columbia

Eric Damer ( is a lifelong resident of British Columbia and a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia. His graduate theses explored several aspects of UBC's history, particularly the role of the university in providing leadership in adult education. He subsequently published a history of UBC's Department of Mechanical Engineering, Discovery by Design, and is currently collaborating on a biography of UBC's Nobel laureate, Michael Smith. When not hiding in the university archives or squinting behind a computer screen, Eric enjoys Vancouver's cultural amenities and rambles in the local mountains.