Liberal Arts College turns 30 

By Russ Cooper

Those were the good old days... Magnifying glass

Those were the good old days... "That photo was really nice to see. I still had hair," says Fred Krantz of this shot of the 1984 graduation at the LAC. Krantz stands with grads Francine Perkal (left) and Maria Gerdes.

Reminiscing back over its 30-year history, Liberal Arts College Professor and co-founder Fred Krantz remembers the institution's beginnings fondly. He nostalgically recalls a $3 000 donation from long-time LAC supporter Stan Tucker that would begin the legacy of Concordia's 'Ultimate Book Club.'

"In 1978, [Political Science Professor and LAC co-founder] Harvey Shulman and I drove to New York City in a beat-up rented van, staying in flea-bag motels so we could spend every cent on books for the college," he recounts. "The van was packed top to bottom with dusty books. I think we even ruined the shocks."

To this day, if you visit the college and venture up to the second-floor library, you'll see the shock-busting repository that's fueled the finest in curious thinking for three decades.

What began in 1978-79 has now become one of the university's flagship centres of learning. Based on the teachings of great thinkers and texts, the LAC provides students with a well-rounded education and enables them to become critical thinkers.

"We had ideas of what education should be," says Krantz, who served as principal from inception to 1986, then as vice principal for six years after. "We wanted educated people to deal with the world. I think we've done that."

From March 19 to 21, the LAC will be holding its anniversary festivities, including discussion panels, an alumni breakfast, a speech from LAC grad and executive director of human rights group UN Watch Hillel Neuer, as well as a special edition of their annual theatre production by current students. This year: a rendition of Oscar Wilde's Salomé.

Different than productions of past years (including Molière's Of Cuckolds and Strumpets and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland), the cast of eight students will present this quintessential piece to all in attendance – an opportunity organizers are very excited about.

"How often do you get the chance to meet a bunch of grads going back 30 years? Normally, [the play] is just for students. This year, we have the show for the students and for 200 alumni," says costume designer Heidi Lewis.

"We're pretty proud of this place so it'll be pretty interesting to see what people have to say about how it started off here," says director Telly Vlachakis.

"I have always felt that the college is a hidden jewel not only of Concordia, but for Canadian higher education in general. There's really no comparable program in the rest of the country," says Jean Proulx [BA 06], who works as an assistant for MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau. "I think it's a testament to Concordia's progressive stance, commitment to learning and students and open-mindedness."

Present-day Principal and LAC grad Ariela Freedman, currently on sabbatical, also recalls the pleasure she derived from her time as an LAC student, and how fortunate she is to be a part of the college at this juncture and into its future.

"I still feel lucky to teach in a place where being intellectually adventurous is more important than a narrow definition of expertise," she says. "I hope that the college remains a haven for reading and for ideas and for bright and adventurous students who read the books as though they were maps for living. I think the college manages to be very intimate and also very challenging. I hope it can retain that."

However, before the future generation of critical thinkers can get started, this year's class must still perform Salomé to a packed De Sève Cinema of alumni and guests – a performance, however invigorating, isn't far out of mind for Lewis and Vlachakis.

"I'm thinking about the 30 years of experience in critical thinking trained at the Liberal Arts College watching us… times 200," says Lewis.

Vlachakis adds, "It's gonna be horrifying."


Concordia University