Our History

Mohawk College has a rich history including two predecessors, the Hamilton Institute of Technology and the Provincial Institute of Textiles.

The following is updated from Mohawk College, The Years to 1985: A History 1946-1985

The Name Mohawk College

The Board of Governors held its inaugural meeting on September 28, 1966 at which time the name of the College was discussed. For many years, there had been a strong desire to have a college in the City of Brantford. The Government decided that Hamilton was a more appropriate location and the College now serves the Golden Horseshoe, with campuses in Brantford, Stoney Creek, and Hamilton.

Choosing a name to reflect the wider community was a highly delicate matter in 1966. At the time, there seemed to be a preference for Aboriginal names. Joseph Brant, Chief of the Mohawks, had played a prodigious role in the former British Colony, winning respect for himself and his people. Note was made of the fact that the Mohawk Trail School, not far from the site of the College, was being turned into a museum for the celebration of the Canadian Centennial. The name "Mohawk" was comfortable for both Hamilton and Brantford. Thus the name Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology was agreed upon as reflecting the special nature of a large area of Brant county, including the Six Nations and New Credit Reservations, the City of Brantford, part of the adjacent region of Haldimand-Norfolk, and the County of Wentworth. Approval for the name was given by the Board on October 17, 1966.

The Coat of Arms and Colours

Many Heraldic symbols have a kind of iconograph of the name incorporated in their design. Several board members offered suggestions and as one of them remembered, attention focused on a stuffed hawk in one of the display cases. It was decided to feature the "hawk" section of "Mohawk". After consultation with the Royal College of Heraldry in England, a proposed Coat of Arms was approved at the June 18, 1969 Board meeting along with the college colours of red, black and gold. The hawk remains a symbol of Mohawk today, and the vision of the hawk is celebrated as part of the Mohawk character.

Drums Along the Mohawk

The following is extracted from the article appearing in BIZ Magazine, Summer '96 entitled Drums Along the Mohawk written by Joanna Miclash.

The history of Mohawk College springs from deep within the roots of the Hamilton area. From the first cotton mills of the 1800s, located in Dundas and Ancaster, to the flourishing foundries of Hamilton harbour in the 20th century, Hamilton had established itself as a leading industrial city. In 1947, the Provincial Institute of Textiles, a predecessor to Mohawk College and located at what is now the Wentworth Campus, was founded as one of the first Ontario schools to offer specialized post-secondary training in the technical fields. 

A decade later, the school was restructured as the Hamilton Institute of Technology in response to the increasing need for technical education. The first class of 104 young men were offered select courses in textile, electrical, electronics and mechanical technology. On May 21, 1965, William Davis, then minister of education, introduced Bill 153, an act that called for the establishment of new alternatives to university in Ontario - the colleges of applied arts and technology. The Hamilton region, including Brant, Wentworth and part of Haldimand-Norfolk, was designated "Area Nine", and would establish one of twenty new colleges throughout the province. 

The idea was to provide a college to service the needs of the changing communities; a post-secondary institution that would be an alternative to the "sheepskin of a university education". Until the mid '60s, the choices for high school graduates who did not attend university were very limited. The new colleges of applied arts and technology would be revolutionary in that they would offer a new vocational training option, one that would bring educated and trained graduates beyond post-secondary directly into the labour force. 

A sprawling 66-acre site on the mountain beside Hillfield College was chosen as the future site of the college in Hamilton. An old root cellar on the grounds, recognizable today as the core of "The Arnie", Mohawk's lively student centre, had been part of the farm that supplied food to the psychiatric hospital on the mountain brow. After an original $7 million cost projection, by mid-1965 the cost had skyrocketed to some $15 million and the project would take three years to complete. Planning progressed, and in September, 1966, the first board of governors met to select a name. It is perhaps no coincidence that at the time there was a trend towards returning to native roots - thus Seneca College in North York and Algonquin College in Ottawa. The name Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology reflected the area's historic native heritage; Joseph Brant, the founder of Brantford, was a highly esteemed Mohawk chief. 

In 1968, Mohawk's student body had grown to 1,900 full-time students, 2,000 continuing education students, and 150 staff. Tuition for a three-year diploma course was $235 a year. The first Mohawk students were unquestionably part of the '60s generation. The idea of "night college" was relatively new. The Hamilton Spectator reported in June, 1965 that "a 35-year-old man with a wife and children can come at night if he wants to be an electrical technician". But the challenges of a rapidly changing society were only beginning to emerge. With an initial student ratio of 688 men to three women, the college encouraged participation by more women, which meant the introduction of programs in early childhood education, legal and medical secretarial and communication arts. Keith McIntyre, president of Mohawk College since the fall of 1981, remembers fondly the "pioneer era" of Ontario's college system. "Although there were different kinds of challenges," he says, "they were memorable years." 

By the mid-1970's, Mohawk had emerged as a leading college in engineering, applied arts and business, and health technology, with more than 18,000 full- and part-time students and a staff of 600. As McIntyre reflects, the college was now entering a "maintenance period". "Most of the launch was accomplished, now it was a matter of expanding and fine-tuning the system."