World Wide Connections

In 1990, UBC celebrates its 75th anniversary. Alumni, faculty, staff and students join with President Strangway in the many celebrations such as the campus-wide ‘open house’ that features memorable UBC ‘letter people’ mascots and the proud yet aging members of the original Great Trek.

For UBC research, the decade begins optimistically with a focus on globalization, connectivity, and interdisciplinary cross-national approaches. In 1991, a $20-million restructuring plan establishes five regionally based centres for Chinese Research, Korean Research, India and South Asia Research, Southeast Asia Research, and Japanese Research.

The World of Opportunity campaign launches with the goal of raising $66 million to fund new buildings, program chairs, professorships, and endowments. On April 29, 1992, the David Lam Management Research Centre is the first building officially funded by the initiative. By 1993, the campaign raises $262 million and provides 53 chairs and 20 professorships to faculties. Financier Peter Wall contributes $15 million to establish a cross-disciplinary Institute of Advanced Studies.

Aided by donations from distinguished and generous UBC benefactor Dr. Cecil Green and funds raised by the World of Opportunity initiative (matched by the government) in 1993, Green College is founded as the university’s first graduate residential college. The college provides a haven for interdisciplinary study and conversation in keeping with the UBC spirit or as Dr. Green notes at the Green College opening ceremony: “The complex nature of the modern world demands intellectual flexibility. It’s no longer good enough for a brilliant man or woman to be completely immersed in one subject for his or her entire academic life. Engineers need to understand the ebb and flow of human history; physicists need to know something of the dynamics of the human psyche; doctors need to understand the subtleties of literature and art.”


“The complex nature of the modern world demands intellectual flexibility. It’s no longer good enough for a brilliant man or woman to be completely immersed in one subject for his or her entire academic life. Engineers need to understand the ebb and flow of human history; physicists need to know something of the dynamics of the human psyche; doctors need to understand the subtleties of literature and art.”

Cecil H. Green

This is the new world at UBC, one where knowledge transfer is increasingly seen as a means to fulfill UBC President Strangway’s passionate goal to create a world-renown university. Raising UBC’s profile in the Canadian political landscape, alumna Avril Phædra Douglas "Kim" Campbell takes a seat in Ottawa becoming Canada’s first female prime minister in 1993.

In the same year, UBC biochemistry professor Michael Smith receives the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering work in the development of site-directed mutagenesis, a technique which allows gene sequences to be altered in a designated manner for use in medical and biological research. Dr. Smith reinvests into research and donates half the Nobel Prize money to research, the other half to Science World BC and the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology.

In the 1990s, the health of the environment is a growing public concern. Among the university’s many initiatives and works, UBC receives $2.4 million from the Tri-Council secretariat (SSHRC, MRC, NSERC) to take a close look at ‘home waters’ and what’s arguably the heart of the province. Lead by UBC researcher Professor Michael Healey and assisted by 27 UBC faculty and 35 students from nine faculties working across disciplines, in 1997 the seminal report, Prospects for Sustainability: Integrative Approaches to Sustaining the Ecosystem Function of the Lower Fraser Basin, is published.

In 1992, UBC receives its largest medical research grant to date: $6.1 million for research into degenerative disorders of neuron pathways. Of the $107 million UBC attracts in funding between 1990 and 1992, about 37 percent goes to the Faculty of Medicine. UBC’s leadership in areas such as hematology, lung and molecular biological research, and its interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to basic and applied medical research, together helps further its goal of being the leading medical research centre in the world.

In 1993, the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program is renewed for a second phase with a budget of $197 million over four years. In February 1997, Ottawa makes the NCE program permanent with an annual allocation of $47.4 million. The program provides UBC faculty and postdoctoral candidates exposure to more external researchers, networking opportunities, and to industry needs and challenges. By decade’s end, UBC is actively participating in all 14 NCEs.

UBC is also an early adopter of the World Wide Web, using it internally and externally. The first online course is offered in 1995, changing the campus teaching dynamic from a broadcast medium to a two-way dialogue between learners and instructors.

Two years later, UBC Department of Computer Science faculty member Murray Goldberg perfects his World Wide Web Tools or WebCT; the web-based learning platform revolutionizes e-learning. WebCT is immediately adopted beyond UBC by universities around the world and by 1998 it is the world leader in online teaching with more than 800 universities utilizing the platform.

In 1997, UBC President David Strangway steps down. His single-minded 12-year mission to make UBC ‘world-renowned’ is achieved with more than 150 cross-fertilizing academic agreements now in place all over the world, from Asia to South America, Africa and Australia. UBC students are now ‘world travellers’ in education, learning about other cultures and bringing this knowledge back to campus and from here, transmuting it into new discoveries and new ways of thinking, and passing these riches back into the world.

1990–1999: Timeline

Explore the era

  • Professor LeRoi Daniels teaching a class to Selkirk College students from a studio on UBC’s Vancouver campus, 1994.  

  • Russian President Boris Yeltsin proudly sporting a UBC engineering jacket during his visit in 1993.

  • An AIDS human rights protest at Robson Square, 1990.

  • Cecil Howard Green (far right) at the opening of Green College, May 1993.

  • Faculty of Arts student, Gillian Elcock, contributes to environmental efforts with organic compost, 1991.

President David W. Strangway

“We have never been stronger in terms of research, and we plan to grow even stronger. Recent Centres of Excellence grants competitively awarded to UBC were greater than those awarded to any other university in Canada. Grants we attract in the faculty of education are second to none, and we continue to be highly competitive in attracting funding to social sciences and humanities research.”

David W. Strangway
President, 1985–1997

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UBC is proud to mark its 100th anniversary as a global leader in education, research innovation and community engagement.
Learn more about the UBC Centennial.