Calvin Wharton is a member of the DTUC reunion committee. Photo: Submitted

Calvin Wharton is a member of the DTUC reunion committee. Photo: Submitted

David Thompson University Centre reunion planning underway

The Nelson-based institution closed in 1984

Submitted by DTUC Reunion Committee

The organizers of a planned 2023 reunion of faculty, support staff and students from Nelson, B.C.’s David Thompson University Centre are seeking input from people formerly associated with the school.

Preferred dates and reunion events are among the questions reunion organizers have for interested individuals, who are asked to contact the reunion committee at dtucreunion@gmail.com.

DTUC was a consortium of the University of Victoria and Selkirk College, established in 1979 on the premises of Notre Dame University of Nelson following NDU’s closure in 1977. DTUC students could obtain a UVic BA degree, and the institution incorporated Nelson’s former Kootenay School of Art, which became DTUC’s fine arts department. Instruction was available in a wide range of subjects, including photography, creative writing, and rural teacher education.

After a B.C. government assessment committee in fall 1983 approved the continuation of the province’s only “university centre,” the government reversed course following the collapse of the November 1983 public sector general strike, which had been widely supported in the West Kootenay. DTUC was ordered to close May 1, 1984.

“A couple of former fellow DTUC writing students approached me this past summer about a reunion,” said DTUC reunion committee member Calvin Wharton, retired head of Douglas College’s creative writing department. “We contacted some other DTUC people, who were enthusiastic about a gathering of everyone who was involved with the school. We have a list of questions to help determine when in the year most people would be willing to come to Nelson for the event, and what sort of programming they’d like to see.”

Wharton said 2023 was picked for the reunion in the hope that pandemic restrictions will be fully lifted by then to allow an in-person event.

“We’re also interested in contact information people may have for anyone who participated in the life of the institution,” he said. He noted that 2021 is 37 years since DTUC was shuttered, so spreading the word about the reunion is a challenge.

“Personally, I’ve always considered DTUC a magical experiment because it reached outside traditional academia and arts education,” said Verna Relkoff, DTUC reunion committee member and former head of the Kootenay School of the Arts’ creative writing department.

“DTUC was a brief fusion of the two that had extraordinary energy. It was years ahead of its time.”