uOttawa and Ottawa Gatineau: 175 years of growing together

175th anniversary

By Jacques Frémont

President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Ottawa

Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor
Alumni Hall with a hand holding up an old image of what Alumni Hall looked like in the mid-1800s.
Then and now of University of Ottawa's Alumni Hall
When Bytown College welcomed its first 60 francophone and anglophone students to its new home on Sussex Drive on September 26, 1848, the founders may not have realized it, but 175 years later, the school they were launching would produce the largest French-English bilingual university in the world.

Today, the University of Ottawa has more than 47,000 students from over 150 countries. We enjoy a growing international reputation for research and innovation. We also inject billions into the local economy and help connect this region to the world, through partnerships in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.  

uOttawa has accomplished this thanks to strong and committed partners – governments, business, and the community – who have collaborated with us to help this region become the capital city of a respected G7 nation.  

uOttawa is proud to be part of this vibrant community and to contribute its collective success, whether by helping Kanata North to be the country’s leading technology park, by creating knowledge in areas like artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, or by training bilingual educators and health care professionals to strengthen Franco-Ontarian communities.  

On this 175th anniversary, uOttawa is looking back, but is also looking ahead. For example, we are opening a new state-of-the-art Faculty of Health Sciences centre on Lees Ave., bringing together the schools of Nursing, Nutrition, Human Kinetics, Rehabilitation, and Interdisciplinary Health. This will help train the health care professionals that our communities desperately need to address labour shortages, and to fuel collaborative research in Indigenous, women’s and mental health.  

In addition, this year we will start construction on our most ambitious initiative to date: the Advanced Medical Research Centre, next to the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine. Under one roof, this new venture will host health researchers, practitioners, and entrepreneurs; all working together to develop and commercialize new therapies that should build better health for Canadians and cement the competitiveness of the National Capital Region in health science and biotech. 

Like so much of Canadian society, uOttawa is also joining with people across the country to embrace Canada’s Indigenous heritage, strengthening our ties to First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities, on the path to reconciliation. Our first Indigenous chancellor, Claudette Commanda is helping guide this important work. 

What does all this say about the future of universities in this region? It says that if universities, governments, and businesses work together, we can accelerate our region's research strengths to create growth and prosperity that benefits universities and the entire community.  

The pieces of the puzzle are there to build on, but we face an important question: will we be able to put them together and turn Ottawa Gatineau into one of the few truly smart Canadian regions?  

The University of Ottawa is ready and willing to be a major contributor to this effort, but we need partners to drive renewed social and economic development in this region. That way, as uOttawa marks 175 years, we can celebrate past achievements and can also look forward to collaborating with this community to make it an even better place to grow, work and learn. 

Here’s to our future together.