In the beginning, “vampires” ran Laurier Brantford.
Sitting in the office he has used since he started at Laurier Brantford, Gary Warrick recalled the long nights he and Peter Farrugia spent in the Carnegie Building. As they worked, they would come together and dream about what this new venture could become. They called themselves “The Vampire Club.”
Holly Cox shares similar memories. No matter the time of day, someone was in the Carnegie Building, the Manager of Recruitment and Registrarial Services said. Getting the campus started “was a lot of work.”
Cox also stressed the work was “fun.” It was exciting: for the first time, university education was coming to Brantford, and the community was largely thrilled. Cox recalls how walking through the mall wearing a Laurier sweatshirt elicited whispers of excitement.
Peter Farrugia remembers how he felt at the grand opening in October 1999. He saw the community support, and he and Warrick thought, “Wow, we had better make sure this works, because this community is so invested in the opportunity.” The continued support of the community has challenged Farrugia to “work harder.” Work, they did.
According to Warrick, most of those early dreams he and Farrugia had – including programs in education, journalism, law and health being added to Laurier Brantford – have come true. But, for a little while, at least, Warrick wasn’t completely convinced they would.
Warrick came to Laurier Brantford after spending a decade with the Ministry of Transportation;, although his ultimate career dream had been to be a university professor. Warrick took a year’s leave of absence to come to Brantford. At times, especially in January 2000, when things were, in Warrick’s words, “looking a little grim.” Laurier Brantford opened with 39 full-time students. This small size allowed for a close community – and, at times, discontent. Warrick and Farrugia both admitted some students contemplating leaving. Warrick looked around and thought, “I guess I’m going back to the government. … I really thought, this is a fine, a great year in Brantford, then I’ll be back in my government cubicle.”
But those early students, whom Farrugia describes them as “pioneers,” stayed. And those early professors, Warrick, Farrugia and Stephen Haller, remained. And students came.
Cox said those first students, all of whom were from Brantford and Brant County, “really did make a big leap of faith.” Recruiting studies relied on conveying a sense of excitement – although there were no buildings to show prospective students. Recruitment was difficult, but growth didn’t surprise Cox. “An outsider would have been surprised,” she said.
Professor David Morris first came to Laurier Brantford in 2000 “because there was a university in Brantford.” Very few students lived in residence, few students stayed on campus when not in class, making building a community difficult. According to Morris, the staff and faculty “really killed themselves to make sure there were extracurricular [activities].” Almost every day there was some kind of contest. There were regular movie nights.
Morris never doubted the small campus would grow. “We knew it was going to take off,” he said. “Never had a doubt.”