The University of Ottawa: 175 Years of Change

175th anniversary
A picture of old Tabaret
A look back with archivist Michel Prévost.

The University of Ottawa and St. Paul’s university turn 175 this year. Originally founded as Bytown College in 1848, uOttawa is proud of its history, which is one of change, adaptation, and transformation. From its humble beginnings as a small, Roman Catholic college with fewer than 100 students, this institution of higher learning has grown to become one of Canada’s largest universities and a global leader in transformative research.  Today, as a bilingual university in the heart of the nation’s capital, it remains committed to promoting Francophone culture and strengthening Francophone communities in Ontario, across Canada, and around the world. 

Throughout 2023, we will be looking back across our 175-year history and reflecting on how the world has changed, how uOttawa has met that change, and how our people have made this happen. As the past three years have taught us, change is constant, and so we will celebrate this by highlighting uOttawa’s changes and changemakers. This month’s story looks back at our early days and our evolution. Michel Prévost is a uOttawa alumnus who was our chief archivist for 30 years. As someone with extensive knowledge of our history, he has a deep affection for the University; he sees its buildings not only as historic structures, but also as places filled with stories and institutional memory.  

Mr. Prévost was here for our last major anniversary, our 150th, so he has seen firsthand how we’ve grown and changed over the past 25 years. Watch the video below and listen to his overview of our beginnings and our evolution. 

Michel Prévost was the University of Ottawa’s Chief Archivist from 1990 to 2017. Since 1997, he has been president of the Société d'histoire de l'Outaouais. Michel Prévost has received many awards for his outstanding commitment to regional heritage, including an honorary doctorate from Saint Paul University (2015), the ACFO Bernard Grandmaître Award (2018), and the City of Gatineau Tribute Award (2018).