A Short History of The Vancouver Institute

The Vancouver Institute, a free public educational forum, has been in existence since 1916. Lectures are held on the campus of the University of British Columbia during the fall and spring academic terms.

Overflow audiences are common for our main auditorium of 500 seats. A second closed circuit lecture theatre is available with a very large colour television screen. This second room holds 240 people and additional rooms are opened as necessary. On several occasions, five or six rooms and the large lobby have all been used with many closed circuit television screens. We have had as many as an estimated 4000 people come out for our regular lectures although we can only seat 2000 at most in relative comfort and safety.

As the quality of speakers goes up, so does the size of the audience. We have had many Nobel Laureates address us and people like French Academician Claude Levi-Strauss and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, as well as distinguished speakers from Britain, continental Europe, Asia, the United States and, of course, Canada. Our most celebrated speaker was the Dalai Lama who attracted about 10,000, most of whom could not be seated.

The appreciation of the audience for the evening's lecture is the only reward that the enthusiastic, all volunteer executive wants. The speakers, also, are not paid by The Vancouver Institute although their travelling expenses are covered by us. Over the last few years, The Institute has been fortunate enough to cosponsor speakers with several lectureship committees, including Cecil and Ida Green, Leon and Thea Koerner, Dal Grauer, J.V. Clyne, E.S. Woodward, the Vancouver Sun, and External Affairs Canada.

In sum, we feel that we have achieved something very special in Canada--an exciting, educational public forum that reaches between 20 and 30 thousand people directly and many more indirectly each year. Some of the programs are later broadcast and our speakers are regularly interviewed and discussed in the news media. Books and reports have been published nationally and internationally quoting, with attribution, lectures given at The Vancouver Institute. Our speakers from various parts of the world have told us that The Vancouver Institute is by far the most successful public forum in North America.