Our History

Our history starts with 17 students who registered in the School of Accounting to pursue a Chartered Accountant designation in 1917.

We've gone through several names since then: from the School of Accounting to the College of Accounting to the College of Commerce, and most recently to the Edwards School of Business. We've also had to move several times: from the main campus to the No. 4 Campus by the Airport, to the Hangar Building, and now into our own space. Despite these changes, one thing that hasn't changed is the energy and passion of our students, which is still shaping us and our future.

Historical logos

Take a look below to relive old memories and see what we've built together:

  • The First Students
    New classes

    Even before he became the University of Saskatchewan's first President, Walter Murray planned to develop a faculty of commerce alongside the engineering, law, medicine, and dentistry faculties. He envisioned a university where professionals in the province could receive the training they needed. And Saskatchewan's booming economy meant that business professionals were in demand.

    To start building towards a Commerce faculty, Murray partnered with the newly created Institute of Chartered Accountants of Saskatchewan to create a School of Accounting curriculum. The program added legitimacy to the new profession with classes designed to help students certify as Chartered Accountants. A second stream, a three-year BSc program, would also help replace the apprenticeship system that had traditionally trained accountants.

    The result? The U of S became the first university in Canada to award accounting degrees when it awarded BScs in 1914 to members of the Institute.

    That year, the curriculum was in place, the faculty had been hired, and the classes were set. But it would be three more years before the University officially had Accounting students.

    The First World War delayed registration until 1917, when the first 17 students registered in the CA stream. They worked as bookkeepers during the day and took classes at night to prepare for their CA exams.

    The first students of the degree program registered in 1919.  Across the university, many new students were former servicemen recently retuned from the Great War, so, to ease their transition, The Sheaf gave them the following advice:


    Maybe not so helpful…

    Despite The Sheaf's advice, Walter Whittaker not only became the first student to graduate with a BSc in Accounting in 1923, but also won the Governor General's Gold Medal for academic excellence and went on to become the Controller of the American Radiator Corporation in New York City.

    Over 250 "Owlers" received a BSc. (Accounting) degree between 1923 and 1946, and over 100 of those students went on to become Chartered Accountants.

  • Name Changes

    The School of Accounting was meant to be a temporary stop on the way to a full College of Commerce.  As part of that journey, the School separated from the College of Arts and Science to become the College of Accounting in 1936.

    The change enhanced the visibility, organization, and size of the program on campus. A new College chant and crest were created to celebrate:

    Balancing ledgers
    Auditing books
    We're the boys who catch the crooks ----

     School and College Crests


    In 1943, Murray’s dream was realized. The School of Accounting became the College of Commerce in response to student demand.  It offered a wider range of options to students who sought, as Dean Thompson noted in 1946, "careers in the industrial and professional life of the country with the object of becoming professional business executives."  

    The transition from being an Owler to a Commerce Cat wasn’t always easy, though – not everyone understood the College's new name. In his year-end review, 1946 Commerce Society President, Keith Logan, reflected on that challenge:

    "Remember on registration how we had to keep telling people what the College of Commerce was,
    how we were not content to be ledger keepers or pen pushers? 
    We were going to be business executives."

    To keep up with businesses' changing needs, the College created new programs for students.  Recognizing that the health care field needed more administrative professionals, the College developed a diploma in Health Care Administration in 1956.  In 1961, the three-year degree became a four-year degree, which allowed students to be better prepared to join the work force.  And, in 1966, the MBA program began to allow people from all backgrounds to specialize in finance, health care, or quantitative analysis for administrators.

    On July 24, 2007, the University of Saskatchewan proudly acknowledged Mr. N Murray Edwards' continued relationship with the business school by transforming the College of Commerce to the Edwards School of BusinessThe investment in our business school allows us to gain recognition with our new brand and helps to position the school as one of the top five business schools in Canada. The students, faculty, and staff of the Edwards School are grateful for Mr. Edwards’ continued support.

  • On the Move

    Haultain Sketch

    As the College was forming, it continued to move over the years.  The proposed Haultain Hall (above), was intended to house a number of departments, including the then School of Accounting, but was never built.  The depression intervened.  The college was scattered across the university.

    In 1945, the college and all its classes were finally in the same space: a former Royal Canadian Airforce base near the airport called "No. 4 Campus."  Having all of the classes in the same building unified the College and gave it its own culture.  Once they moved back to the main campus, this sense of community helped them flourish in their new building, the infamous Hangar:

    “On a clear day, it can be seen from the roadway.

    On a rainy day it can’t be seen—it is usually under water.

    This, my friend, is the beautiful hangar building, Saskatchewan’s most prized examples of modern structural art” (The Sheaf, March 7, 1952).

    The Hanger was meant to be a short-term solution to the increased enrollment after WWII – but it ended up staying on campus for decades. It flooded in the spring, its floors were uneven, and it was infested with rodents.  Despite these issues, the old Hangar was so beloved that, after its demolition in May, 1994, the College sent framed Hangar shingles to donors as a memento.

     A Commerce Class in the Hangar Building  Hangar Building  1951 Hangar Building Flood 

    The shingle's off!  Presenting a piece of history to a donor  Donors pose with their shingles

    In 1966, the “Commerce Cats stepped out one night on their centennial prowl, stealing out of their old Hangar into their new pad in the Arts building. Can you imagine the influx—600 new guys and a few gals into the campus nucleus—and Dean Barber, their 'top kitty'?” 

    The Cats stayed in the Arts Building for just two years until…


    The Law-Commerce complex was completed in 1967.  The new building gave the College of Commerce 14 new classrooms, a library-reading room, a laboratory work room, a 20-station Calculator room, and rooms for the Dean’s office, faculty offices, and secretarial offices.  It was built with expansion in mind – the new facility was designed for 700 students.  The College officially moved into the building in 1968. 

    Commerce Building  Commerce Lounge

    Over time, the College outgrew the space, so thanks to donations from the Nutrien (formerly know as the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan), the Georgia Goodspeed estate, Commerce Advisory Services, the Commerce Enhancement Trust Fund, N. Murray Edwards, TD Bank Financial Group, and the Cornerstone Fund, a two-storey Nutrien Centre was added to the Law-Commerce Complex in 1998.  It was officially opened on June 5, 2000 and gave the College an additional 1,200m2 for case study rooms and a new lecture theatre.

    readingroomThe building was updated again in 2016 when the Commerce Reading Room was refurbished thanks to Larry Moeller (B.Comm. 1980).  The updated space gave students a more flexible space, break-out rooms, and a lounge and eating area.


    Since opening in 1917, Commerce grads have gone on to work in a variety of professionals, from controllers to investment advisors to surgeons. The Edwards School of Business is proud to recognize the achievements of alumni and student as they strive to build nations. Check out the featured alumni from each decade below!