Northern Lights College can trace its beginning to the time when the Canadian government built the Mid Canada Line, an electronic defence against airborne attack over the north.
The line’s western-most Sector Control Station was constructed in Dawson Creek, and was operational from 1956-64. When this military station closed, it was purchased by the provincial government and converted into a vocational school.
The BC Vocational School-Dawson Creek opened in September 1966, serving primarily the Peace River region. The curriculum for the new school was divided into two areas: pre-employment and pre-apprenticeship.
In 1974, a Regional Advisory Committee was formed by the provincial government to investigate creating a community college in the north. The college would serve the areas of Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Chetwynd, and the Stikine/ Cassiar region (that area was serviced by the Alaska Highway, and by air from Fort Nelson).
In May 1975, a new “Northeastern Community College” was created through an Order-in-Council. The legislation authorized School Districts 59, 81, and 87 to participate in establishing a college that would be based in Dawson Creek and would serve the northern third of the province.
The name “Northern Lights College” was selected from entries in a name the college contest, and was announced on June 3, 1975.
Northern Lights College opened officially in September 1975.
The first president of the College was Dr. Barry Moore (1975-1979), who had been a senior administrator at Grande Prairie Regional College.
Dawson Creek was the College’s main centre, due to the existing facilities from the vocational school. Dawson Creek offered academic, vocational, career and continuing education courses. As programs and staff expanded, it was determined that a separation was needed between the Dawson Creek centre and regional administration.
Fort Nelson was the first location outside of Dawson Creek to offer courses. The Fort Nelson centre (which also administered the Stikine region) started in the SD 81 board office, and there were 115 people enrolled in the first year of programs. Over the ensuing three years, enrollment went up to 800.
In Fort St. John, the College originally rented space in the basement of city hall, and then eventually moved to other temporary facilities.
In Cassiar, the first term started in November 1975, with 94 people enrolled in continuing education courses.
A College Chronicle