North Island College’s Port Alberni campus was thrust into the past on Nov. 5 when president John Bowman opened a time capsule that was sealed 25 years ago.
More than two dozen people, including the NIC president, faculty members, eight 25-year veterans of the college and community partners gathered in the foyer of the Roger Street facility to see what was inside the capsule. The opening concluded the college’s regional planning forum.
“When they took the lid off the time capsule they were pulling out all these envelopes,” said Elizabeth Young, part of the communications team at North Island College. “There were some things like a BC Tel telephone book.”
The time capsule was incorporated into the design of the foyer, with a plaque inside the front doors the only visible sign that a time capsule was there. It was sealed on opening day Oct. 18, 1994 by NIC president at the time, Dr. Neil Murphy, with the inscription, “Open on Oct. 18, 2019.”
“That 25 years went by so fast,” Young said. “We have staff who are still teaching there, like Dr. Michael Catchpole. A research paper that Dr. Catchpole did was actually in the time capsule.”
Other items included in the time capsule were photos and speeches from the official opening, newspaper articles about the college from 1994, the NIC community education calendar, lapel pins, business cards, the BC Tel phone book and a fall and winter Sears catalogue.
“What I saw (in the photos) was the range of community groups that were there to celebrate us coming into the community,” said Lynne MacFadgen, NIC’s regional director of continuing education and training.
The MLA at the time was there, as were the City of Port Alberni, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District representatives, First Nations, MacMillan Bloedel, parks and recreation members, Rollin Art Centre and childcare society representatives. “That shows they were strong supporters.
“People say 25 years is a generation. What a commitment for faculty and staff to be still as engaged in education delivery in our college,” MacFadgen added.
“We have strong roots in our community college, then and now. It’s been said a people with knowledge of their past history, origins and culture is like a tree with strong roots. From the Port Alberni time capsule contents and the number of people who came out to celebrate with us, I would say NIC has deep roots.”
Dr. Michael Catchpole has been teaching at NIC’s Port Alberni campus for 25 years, and has been with the college for 41 years. He is a professor of psychology and is also a pioneer of the college’s distance education program.
Catchpole talked at the opening of the time capsule of the successes the college’s distance ed program has seen. He wrote a paper 25 years ago for the American Journal for Distance Education and included a copy of the paper in the time capsule.
“NIC was a world leader in distance learning,” he said.
Wilma Gus is another instructor who was at the official opening in October 1994. When the time capsule was opened 25 years later, she found a photo of herself from that first day in one of the envelopes.
“I was just delighted to see the things that were coming out of there once they started opening the packages,” she said. “It was just like Christmas.
“I’m one of four staff people that are still here after all these years,” said Gus, who is the department chair for Adult Basic Education and still teaches math classes.
“I had just recently started teaching Adult Basic Education and was working on the first year of our First Nations transition program,” she said of the photo. “I had actually started at the old campus. I had attended Smith School (an independent school) so it was surreal to have Sister Marie’s office when I started there.”
There have been a few changes in 25 years, she said. “Physically the building is very well taken care of. The changes I’ve seen around supports for adult learners…that took a hit.”
After some severe government cuts from a few years ago, Gus said she is finally noticing a difference in ABE students moving forward with their learning. “It’s gradually rebounding.”
North Island College is collecting memorabilia to put back into the time capsule, this time to be opened on the college’s 50th anniversary, in 2044. College students, faculty and alumni as well as community members may donate items to go into the capsule, which will be resealed sometime in the spring.
Next week in the Alberni Valley News: 25 years of distance learning at North Island College.