The Year of the Great Panic

In a time of great need, staff, faculty, and volunteers stepped up to serve the school they loved.

The fall of 1967 was, undoubtedly, one of the most difficult seasons in the history of Trinity Junior College. It was so difficult, in fact, that founding president Calvin Hanson dubbed this season, “The Year of the Great Panic.”

The state of the campus was quite different back then. Although it had been running as a two-year college since 1962, it was still largely farmland. Many essential facilities were lacking, such as adequate dormitories to hold the growing student population and a proper dining facility.

But in 1967, Trinity Western was approved for financing a new dormitory-dining facility. The building (which would become Douglas Hall) went into construction during the summer, but the project faced numerous delays and was far from ready for the college’s fall class schedule.

Because of this, classes were expected to be delayed until the middle of October, if not later.

This was a problem. Enrollment for that year was 217. That meant 217 students would arrive in September with no place to stay. Rising to the challenge, Hanson and the other staff and faculty opened up their homes to as many students as they could fit.

“We had a half dozen male students in our home for that month,” Hanson wrote in On The Raw Edge of Faith. He and his wife Muriel slept on a hideabed in their living room. Other students were billeted at a nearby bible institute or given beds in the Arts and Sciences building.

Faculty, staff, and other volunteers worked each day on getting the dormitory-dining complex ready as soon as possible, often labouring through heavy rain storms.

“But if that part of the project was unpleasant, laying the water mains was something else,” writes Hanson. “Talk about mud! Talk about frustrations and consternation, as dignified academics wrestled the huge mains and struggled with connecting the awkward hydrants—all in the rain.”

Up until then, the school had been using several artesian wells. But the new complex would require a completely new water system. “Water storage, six-inch mains, chlorination and filtering equipment and pumps to supply water under pressure, all of this was in large part undertaken by the faculty and staff to install,” wrote Hanson.

While all this was happening, Ingvald and Agnes Jenstad, the campus cooks, were hard at work preparing food in what was supposed to be the kitchen. They couldn’t wait for renovations to be done; there were a lot of hungry people to feed.

“They were working in what looked like a field kitchen in a combat zone,” Hanson wrote. Yet despite unfavorable conditions, the Jenstads were always smiling. They’d been the college cooks from the very beginning, and whether it was 17 students or 300-plus, they found a way to make sure everyone was fed.

It was nothing short of a miracle that any students stayed during those first two months. But they did. Those students could see how the staff, faculty, and volunteers worked above and beyond their duty because they believed in this college. When asked about it today, those who lived through those days say it was a time of great adventure and anticipation.

When construction finally finished in mid-October, a new era had dawned. Trinity Junior College had a functioning cafeteria and dining area for the first time in history, thanks to the diligent hard work and support of countless volunteers.