While COGS (College of Geographic Sciences), as it was named in Provincial Legislation proclaimed in 1986, is a relatively recent occurrence, its roots stretch back over 40 years before that date. The early history of “Major Church’s Survey School”and, as it evolved in 1958, to the “Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute” (NSLSI) is well documented in the excellent book A Life Worthwhile, authored by the last principal of NSLSI, James F. Doig. The book chronicled the life and achievements of a most remarkable man, Major James A. H. Church. The Major, as we locals and graduates referred to him, had a drive and determination coupled with a technical education teaching philosophy, unique in its delivery, that resulted in the small village of Lawrencetown becoming the “go to place” for technical training in Surveying and Mapping in Canada.
Several important events occurred in the early 1970’s. NSLSI was bursting at the seams with demand for graduates by industry and government agencies far exceeding those surviving the rigorous training regime. Also, the first “rock star” instructor on faculty, Walter K. Morrison, a cartographer formerly with the National Geographic Magazine in Washington, needed expanded photomechanical facilities to train cartographic technicians in modern techniques. Then principal, James F. Doig, secured the funding from the Department of Education and closely supervised the construction of the excellent facility still technically functional today. The new building, surrounded by extensive acreage for field exercises, not only provided space for existing training programs, but anticipated future growth with extra classrooms and labs.
The second event was the beginning of the paradigm shift from analog to digital technologies in the geographic and related surveying and mapping sciences. While the seeds of this shift had been developed in government and industry labs in the late sixties and early seventies, they did not become widely used commercially until the mid to late seventies, with the development of Landsat satellites, mini and desktop computers, electronic distance measuring devices, and eventually global positioning systems (GPS). Perhaps most importantly of all geographic information systems (GIS) were the vehicles that led these revolutionary changes. In a GIS system digital data bases are linked to digital maps so that spatially related statistical analysis can be performed on topics as diverse as forestry, agriculture, population statistics and where to locate the next Tim Hortons. The GIS technology was developed by Dr. Roger F. Tomlinson in Ottawa in the 1960’s. He took a great interest in seeing training programsestablished to use this technology and was a mentor and advocate for this training in Lawrencetown.
New technologies and related training programs required that existing faculty re-educated themselves and that many new faculty members, with special skills and qualifications, be recruited. The massive cost of acquiring and maintaining the new hardware and software required innovative financing and the joint efforts of government, suppliers and manufacturers. Facilities and equipment cannot alone produce strong graduates without an inspired and dedicated faculty and support staff. The selfless attention to their students and the extra work needed to keep ahead of the rapidly evolving technologies, while maintaining the “learn by doing” training philosophy of Major Church, made this exceptional group of professionals “rock stars” in their own right.
By the mid eighties it became evident that a new name was needed to accurately describe the broadened training programs. The acronym COGS was easy to pronounce and, as influenced by Dr. Tomlinson, the College of Geographic Sciences’ new identity was proclaimed. The acronym became recognized internationally and graduates are keenly sought by government agencies and commercial enterprises around the world.