History of Pearson College UWC

Lester B. Pearson, Nobel Peace Laureate (awarded in 1957) and former Prime Minister of Canada, was the driving force behind the founding of Pearson College UWC. After retiring from public life, Mr. Pearson became interested in the United World Colleges (now UWC) movement. At the time there was only one UWC school — the College of the Atlantic in Wales, established in 1962.

Mr. Pearson visited the College of the Atlantic in 1969 and met with students and faculty and came away convinced that there must be more such colleges around the world and, in particular, one on Canada’s west coast. His vision:

“Students will be welcomed without regard to race, religion or politics and we intend to establish scholarships so that the students who attend the College will be from all levels of society and will be genuine representatives of their own peoples. This system … could become a revolutionary force in international education.”

Mr. Pearson became Honourary Chairman of a committee formed to build what was to be known as the College of the Pacific. He worked tirelessly to get the project underway but unfortunately passed away in December 1972.

The mantle of this major initiative was taken up by many friends and colleagues of Mr. Pearson. Soon after his death it was decided that the College would be renamed Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific as a living memorial to his vision.

The Hon. John L. Nichol, CC, was chosen as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and a major fundraising effort began, with over $4 million raised — 83% from individuals, corporations and foundations from across Canada and around the world, and the remaining 17% from governments. On Sep. 25, 1973, construction began on the campus.

Pearson College UWC was founded in 1974 as Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific (Canada).

The Honourable Francis Fox, Solictor-General of Canada (l), with Jack Matthews, Founding Director of Pearson College (r), at the plaque dedication ceremony, 1974

The Hon. Francis Fox, Solicitor-General of Canada (l), with Jack Matthews, Founding Director of Pearson College (r), at the College’s plaque dedication ceremony in Spring, 1975.

Over the next year, Jack Matthews, Founding Director of the College, recruited a faculty of men and women from around the globe, and on Sep. 25, 1974, the first 100 students arrived. Since then, up to 200 students – aged 16 to 19 — have attended each year.

To date, more than 4,200 students have graduated from Pearson College UWC, going onto further education and working in a variety of professions across the globe. No matter what they do, Pearson alumni are dedicated to making change happen in diverse and powerful ways. They share a determination to make a difference and work in their communities as a positive force for peace and progress.

As a non-profit educational institution, the College relies upon the generosity of supportive individuals, alumni, corporations, foundations, together with select governments and supporters of the UWC movement, to help make its extraordinary education available.

History of UWC

In an age when many major issues require global solutions, the UWC movement aims to promote, through education and exchange, a greater understanding between the peoples of the world. This network includes 18 colleges and schools around the world coordinated by the UWC International Board.

The UWC movement was conceived in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War. Kurt Hahn, a noted educator forced to flee Germany during World War II, believed that much could be done to overcome religious, cultural and racial misunderstanding and avoid conflict if young people from all over the world could be brought together. He believed that, while youth aged 16 to 18 are grounded in their own cultures, they are still impressionable enough to learn from each other. Working with RAF Air Marshal Lawrence Darvall and Rear-Admiral Desmond Hoare, Hahn established a new concept of education that would become a powerful force for peace. The first UWC—College of the Atlantic in Wales—opened in 1962, with the second, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (Pearson College UWC), following in 1974.

Today, more than 60,000 students from over 180 countries have studied at UWC schools and colleges and there are about 150 national committees supporting students interested in becoming part of this movement. The 18 colleges are not identical, but share many characteristics as well as the UWC mission and values. Students, faculty and staff from many different nationalities and a wide variety of backgrounds form vibrant and enthusiastic communities as they live and work together.

UWC played a major role in developing and supporting the International Baccalaureate, which provides both the academic program for the colleges and the international university entry examinations taken by graduating students. UWC places strong emphasis on community service activities, in the belief that understanding between peoples cannot be created in the classroom alone.

By offering an educational experience based on shared learning, collaboration and understanding, a UWC education helps students act as champions of peace and progress. In the turbulent world of the 21st century, UWC’s aims and objectives are as relevant today as they were in 1962 – perhaps even more so.

Visual History

Click on the slideshow below to see details…