About our College

Willis College offers a career-focused approach to adult education, enabling graduates to transition into careers in business, technology, and healthcare.  Over the years, this adult private career college has played a major role in seeing more than 150,000 graduates,   leading successful lives in Canadian communities and around the world.

A History of Willis College | Willis College

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One of the Best Amongst All Universities and Colleges

Willis College is unique and distinct amongst all Ottawa universities and colleges. When its doors first opened in 1866, Willis College quickly secured a reputation as a quality adult educational training provider dedicated to serving the community and committed to skills training excellence. Under the leadership of Stephen T. Willis, the College specialized in secretarial and business courses. Back in 1866, manual typewriters lined the classrooms of Willis Business College, where men and women from throughout the Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec Regions were taught the necessary skills of the day: typing, shorthand, dictation, filing, general office duties, and business methods and practices.

Stephen T. Willis, a Lanark County resident, graduate of five commercial courses, and holding a degree, had substantial experience in managing business colleges in both Canada and the United States. President Gaines of Eastman College, New York, said of him:

“Men possessing the well-rounded abilities and experiences that he has are a rarity.”

S.T. Willis was also internationally recognized as an authority on shorthand. In 1936, three leading systems of shorthand were being used. To simplify the principles of shorthand, S.T. Willis developed a new and improved method exclusively for Ottawa – his Willis Shorthand book was first published in 1938.

Following the passing of Stephen T. Willis, the College came under the leadership of the Honourable George Dunbar, Provincial Secretary for the Province of Ontario and a greatly respected citizen of the City of Ottawa. Thereafter, ownership of the College was passed on to Mrs. Bradley and in 1972 to Mr. Rodolphe Rousseau. From April 1975-1980, the Principal of the College was Mrs. Marguerite Service, a Willis College graduate and one of the founders of the Ontario Association of Career Colleges.  In the late 70’s and 80’s Willis College opened the Willis College Language School, providing extensive language training in ESL and FSL for the Canadian Federal Government’s agenda to fulfill their bilingualism requirements.

Finally, in 1989, the College witnessed a further transition with the ownership of the company being transferred to the Aristocrat family. Following in the footsteps of  her predecessors, Ms. Rima Aristocrat has cultivated the tradition of skills training excellence on which the College was founded and has successfully taken the College from business and language training to diversifying the College offerings in Technology, and Healthcare.  She also has built strong relationships internationally and with the Native Canadians community, where the College has delivered its expertise in career development through customized employability skills training programs.

In recognition of her foresight and successful provision of training to meet the technical requirements of the current times and for her significant contributions to the community as well as to her fellow Canadians, Rima Aristocrat, President and CEO of Willis College, was presented with the Ottawa Centre Canadian Leadership Award. Furthermore, she was distinguished by Chatelaine’s “Who’s Who of Canadian Women” for her accomplishments over the last ten years at the helm of Willis College of Business Health & Technology.”

Best Wishes from the Prime Minister

The Prime Minster of Canada, the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, sends his best wished to the graduating class of 2012-2013.

Prime Minister’s Letters to Rima Aristocrat PDF Download


May 24, 2013

Greetings from the Prime Minister

I am delighted to extend my warmest greetings to all those attending Willis College’s commencement ceremony. I am delighted to join you in congratulating the 2012-2013 graduating class.

Today’s convocation marks the successful end to months of dedicated study, and the start of a promising career path. The skills and training you have acquired during your time at Willis College have equipped you to realize your professional aspirations and succeed in Canada’s dynamic economy.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, please accept my best wishes for a memorable ceremony and tremendous success as you pursue new challenges and opportunities.


The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P. Prime Minister of Canada


On October 5, 1996, Willis’ devotion to quality training was proclaimed by Her Worship, Jacquelin Holzman, Mayor of the City of Ottawa,

“WHEREAS in recognition of the close association between the College and the City of Ottawa, and the College’s reputation for training excellence, which it has maintained since its doors first opened in 1896.”

“…WHEREAS, I, Jacquelin Holzman, Mayor of the City of Ottawa, do hereby proclaim Saturday, October 5, 1996 to be Willis Business College Day in the City of Ottawa.”


100th Anniversary of Willis College

On Saturday, October 5th, 1996 the 100th anniversary of Willis College of Business Technology Healthcare Jacquline Holzman, Mayor of Ottawa, proclaims Willis Business College Day in the City of Ottawa.

Click Here to download the full PDF

Office of the Mayor
City of Ottawa
111 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 5A1
Tel.: (613) 244-5380
Fax: (613) 244-5379




Saturday, October 5, 1996

WHEREAS Willis Business College celebrates its 100th anniversary this year; and

WHEREAS Willis continues a strong tradition of community involvement; and

WHEREAS in recognition of the close associate between the College and the City of Ottawa, and the College’s reputation for training excellence, which it has maintained since its doors first opened in 1896, a special anniversary graduation ceremony highlighting the College’s history is being held on Saturday, October 5, 1996;

THEREFORE, I, Jacquelin Holzman, Mayor of the City of Ottawa, do hereby proclaim Saturday, October 5, 1996 to be WILLIS BUSINESS COLLEGE DAY in the City of Ottawa.

Jaquelin Holzman


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