Lindsay Thurber

Lindsay Ambrose Thurber was born on November 19, 1896, in Freeport, Nova Scotia.

Coming from a family of seafarers, he spent some of his youth sailing. He graduated from school in Freeport and went on to attend the Truro Normal School to pursue his main interest, education. However, his schooling came to a halt due to the onset of World War I. Lindsay enlisted in the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) in January 1916. He transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment. A year later, Lindsay fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April where he was wounded. Luckily, it was nothing serious and he was sent back into battle. But he was injured again, seriously, at the Battle of Passchendaele that following November.

Once he returned home, Lindsay resumed his studies. He graduated from Acadia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1922, and married Genevieve Stevens. The couple would have two sons – Reginald (Rex) and Robert (Bob).

Lindsay’s new career path took him out west to Alberta where he obtained a job teaching at Forestburg. He then went on to teach at Evansburg and finally settled in Hanna. In September of 1928, Lindsay was tasked with the challenging job of provincial school inspector for the Hanna District. What made this so difficult was that the area was hit hard by drought, depression, and depopulation. These problems caused many local school boards to collapse. If his job as provincial school inspector wasn’t challenging enough, he became the official trustee, who was directly responsible for both administrative and financial responsibilities for elementary and secondary education in his district. He dealt with the crisis by merging sixty-seven (67) formerly autonomous school districts into one single administrative unit – the Berry Creek School Division. It would be the first consolidated school division in the province of Alberta.

In September of 1928, Lindsay was tasked with the challenging job of provincial school inspector for the Hanna District. What made this so difficult was that the area was hit hard by drought, depression, and depopulation.

Lindsay went on to set up the Acadia and Sullivan Lake School Divisions before he was transferred to Rocky Mountain House in 1937. His job was to organize their district as well. Two years later, he was appointed to Superintendent of the rural Red Deer School District. At the same time, the Red Deer Public School District had built its first dormitory for out-of-town students. This initiative turned out to be so successful that by 1942 more than half of the students from the Red Deer High School were from outside the City of Red Deer.

Following World War II, Lindsay Thurber forged a unique cooperative relationship between the School Districts of Lacombe, Rocky Mountain House, and Red Deer. His intention was to create Western Canada’s first composite high school with both vocational and academic instruction.

By 1947, classroom and dormitory accommodations were secured in the old A-20 Army Camp and the Red Deer Composite High School was established. In 1949, Lindsay aided in implementing an innovative trimester system with the school year divided into three terms. He found this was helpful for rural students so they could complete two school terms and continue with their farming. This lowered the student dropout rate and raised the students’ overall marks in the provincial high school departmental exams.

Because of his nationally known innovations, hard work and accomplishments to the education system, Lindsay Thurber was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Alberta in 1951.

A year later when he retired, he decided to move back to Nova Scotia because of his ailing health. Before doing so, a banquet was held in his honor at the Buffalo Hotel on June 12, 1952. It was quoted that he was “dreading the occasion for a week, ever since he had first heard about this function.”

In 1953-1954, a new high school was being constructed in Red Deer. The school board wanted to name it after Dr. Lindsay Thurber, but he flat out refused. Stating that schools were usually given the names of deceased persons, and he was “far from dead!” But he was eventually persuaded, and changed his mind.

Thus, Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School was created – known as “the Comp” by locals. On July 4, 1963, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Dr. Thurber passed away at the age of sixty-six (66).

Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School past and present

(past) Lindsay Thurber Composite High School
Red Deer Archives, N5929

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