History

A History of Quality Education Since 1866

Willis College is unique and distinct from Canadian 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 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 taught. 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 much-respected citizen of the City of Ottawa. After that, 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 ’70s and ’80s, 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.

In 1989, the College witnessed a further transition with the ownership of the college transferred to the Aristocrat family. Following her predecessors’ footsteps, Ms. Rima Aristocrat cultivated the tradition of skills training excellence on which the College was founded.

In 2020 Summit2 became a partner at Willis College. Currently, Henry Devlin leads the college as President and CEO, preserving the long history of student-centered learning that Willis College has long been known for.

What Our Graduates Are Saying

I left Willis College with a new-found confidence and a full-time job with a reputable company. I feel like there are endless opportunities for me now and I have a bright future ahead of me with a challenging and rewarding career. Willis College was one of the best decisions of my life.
Laura Willey
Willis College Program