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Toronto Bible College: 1894 - 1968

The graduation of the class of 1952 of the Toronto Bible College (TBC) was held at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium. While the TBC student choir was singing, the 70 graduates marched from the two corners at the back of the stadium, met in the centre aisle, then separated again, and went to the stage. The women wore long white dresses, most with sleeves, and the men wore dark suits with white shirts.

That formality of dress was seen in the everyday life of the school. Ruth Harrison (Diploma 1952) remembers wearing dresses or skirts and blouses to class. “No slacks,” says Ruth. “I didn’t even own a pair of slacks. Now I don’t own much else.” There were no t-shirts, sweatpants, or hoodies in class, but there are similarities between then and now.

TBC, which was located at 16 Spadina Road, offered a three-year program in general studies. “It wasn’t specific like today,” says Ruth, but scripture was still the central focus of all learning. Everyone, no matter what year they were in, was present for the Bible class taught first thing every morning. Ruth particularly remembers the teaching of Dr. John McNicol, president emeritus. “Dr. McNicol was quite an inspiration… a real man of faith, so calm all the time,” she says. Ruth still has his books.

Another similarity was the cost of attending TBC. “We could only afford the school if we were working,” says Ruth. The students would attend school in the mornings and work in the afternoons. Ruth worked at Eaton’s department store during her first year and then went to work at a trust company. Many of the female students worked as “domestics” in homes in the area around the school.

While attending TBC, Ruth lived in a number of different places, including the home of a pastor in East Toronto. This same man had been one of her pastors when she was growing up in Beamsville, Ontario. She specifically remembers living with four other women in another place where they had to share one bathroom. The next year she moved into a place where she had her own bathroom – “a treat,” she says.

Ruth got married the same year she graduated and had three girls. Once her girls were old enough, Ruth went back to school to train as a secretary, and her last position was as an executive secretary to one of the deans at George Brown College. During her time at TBC, Ruth’s knowledge of scripture increased, and her relationship with God grew. This gave her the tools and courage to participate in church work, especially in ministries with women and children. Ruth is still involved in her church.

Ruth wrote the class of ’52 newsletters for 25 years and was happy to see a number of her classmates at a recent reunion. “It’s nice to know I’m connected with Tyndale – didn’t think I was for a while, but since Rob (Patterson, Director of Alumni) has been there, that’s been a nice connection.”

Ruth has nothing but good wishes for the school. She was excited to have a tour of the new campus and to know that the school has grown so much that it needs a new campus. “Keep up the good work,” says Ruth (wearing slacks).