A Part of History
In the summer of 1966, Canadians from coast to coast were getting ready for the country's 100th birthday celebrations the following year. But on the second floor of a renovated factory in the east end of Toronto, a small group of people had other things on their mind. They were in a race against time preparing to open the first publicly funded postsecondary college in Ontario – Centennial College.
Christine Wolch was one of that small group. Hired as general administrative support, she worked closely with the rest of Centennial's small staff – literally.
"Faculty and staff were all together in one office so we got to know each other quite well," she said. "And because the entire College was on just one floor, we also got to know the students well. We really did feel like a family."
During the first few weeks, the noise and dust from ongoing renovations only added to the excitement. Those first students and small group of faculty and staff knew they were breaking new ground and Christine felt especially fortunate.
"I really lucked into my first job with Centennial because I didn't have a lot of business experience," she says. "I married and started a family quite young. But by the time my four boys were all in school I was ready to work again."
And work she did. Christine soon became part of a new student aid area where her responsibilities grew as rapidly as the College. In just a few years, more and more programs were added, new campuses opened, and the student body increased from just 514 to thousands. And the requests for financial aid grew accordingly.
By 19XX, Christine had become Centennial's first Director of Student Financial Aid and Awards, a position she held until she retired in the mid-1990s.
"Financial aid for students was relatively new in the late 60s and early 70s," she says. "We were not only creating a new type of post-secondary education, but making it available to young people who would otherwise not be able to take advantage of it."
Over an almost 30 year career, Christine saw that new form of education expand across the province and Centennial itself establish campuses across the east end of Toronto – and around the world. She also helped hundreds of thousands of Centennial students obtain the financial support they needed.
Now in her eighties, Christine is more focussed on her 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. But she has fond memories of her years at Centennial.
"I really enjoyed working at Centennial and my contact with the students," she says. "It was very rewarding. It was also exciting to witness the College growing and growing and growing."
And it all started on that cramped second floor in the east end of Toronto….