Our History

The founders of York University, including Dr. Murray Ross, our first President, and Dr. George Tatham, the first Dean at York University (and later, the first Master of McLaughlin College), envisioned York as a fairly large university that encouraged students to belong to smaller communities, and to learn as much as they could about every academic discipline. These Founders decided that York University should have a college system based roughly on the Oxford-Cambridge college system, or the Harvard-Yale system. The college system within a university developed beginning about seven centuries ago at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England. The colleges began primarily as residences for students, and later provided academic support and became the locus for university sports, extracurricular activities, music and the arts.

York University's founders decided to create a college system because several of them were graduates of English universities with college systems, or U.S. universities such as Yale with a strong college component, or Harvard, which has a similar "house" system. York's founders predicted that the university would become very large, though none could have predicted in 1959 that York University would eventually have fifty thousand students. Rather, they predicted a university that would eventually accommodate 12,000 students, and with that "very large" (from their perspective) university made more human and collegial through twelve colleges with about 1000 students in each.

That original vision is represented by the banner for Founders College, which shows York University at the centre of a twelve-college sun burst. Founders College was the first of the colleges to be established, in 1965. The establishment of McLaughlin College was approved by the York Senate and Board of Governors in 1966. The College was officially opened in 1968 - the opening delayed for a year by a fire during construction of the residence building. McLaughlin College, the fourth College established at York University, is named for Colonel R.S. McLaughlin, a Canadian business pioneer who founded the McLaughlin Motor Car Company in 1907.

In 1910, Mr. McLaughlin became a member of the Board of Directors of General Motors. He sold his company to General Motors in 1918 and it was incorporated as General Motors Canada, with Sam McLaughlin as President. The McLaughlin Foundation provided part of the funding to build McLaughlin College, and Colonel Sam himself was on hand for the official opening of the College in 1968.

George Tatham was appointed as the founding Master of McLaughlin College in 1966 in preparation for the opening of the College in 1968. Tatham was a man of many talents. In his academic career, he helped to establish the Geography Department at the University of Toronto before he was recruited to join York University. He was an accomplished concert pianist, and as a result of his efforts, the McLaughlin Senior Common room has an 1896 Bechstein Grand Piano that Tatham made available to McLaughlin students. Tatham was unbelievably physically fit throughout his life; there were very few who could out-run or out-box him, even when he was in his 80s. Thanks to his vision of the College, McLaughlin has its own exercise gym: Dynamacs. Tatham's vision of McLaughlin College as the college for the development of the "whole person" is still central to McLaughlin's mission.

In the mid-1980s, McLaughlin College adopted the theme of public policy. The College supports eight academic programs related to public policy, and many of our activities are related to the College theme. Today, the College has five thousand student members, 170 Fellows (faculty members, staff, and distinguished members of the outside community), and a thriving Alumni Chapter.

Over the years, many famous people have visited the College - Gordon Lightfoot, Stompin' Tom Connors, Oscar Peterson, Dalton Camp, Joe Clark, Gerald Caplin, Zanana Akande, Elijah Harper, Phil Fontaine, Maurice Strong, Bernard Shapiro, Howard Hampton, and Shirley Hoy, Sheldon Levy, Mary Jo Leddy, Senator Anne Cools to name just a few.

The College provides academic orientation to all new students in the eight programs we support, and we celebrate with our students at convocation. Many of our graduates have gone on to illustrious careers in every walk of life and in every corner of the world. McLaughlin College supports a Public Policy Lecture Series, a lunch talk series, and an Alumni program. There are nearly 30 student clubs affiliated with the College. The McLaughlin Student Council organizes dozens of enjoyable activities culminating in the Spring Formal, and the McLaughlin Sports and Recreation Council offers a variety of intramural sports to the McLaughlin community. Our first 40+ years has been a great start to the rest of our future!