A Legacy of Transformation

"By students for students" has always been the theme of the ministry of Inter-Varsity. Birthed out of the student movement in the United Kingdom in 1929, we began a small group of students and recent graduates, committed to one thing: sharing the message of Jesus Christ with student-aged Canadians. In this, the mission of Inter-Varsity is to radically change the globe with that message, carried by young people to every corner of Canada and the world.

Howard Guinness [1929] Founder of Inter-Varsity
Howard Guinness
Coming from Oxford, England in 1928, Guinness was the founder and first General Director of Inter-Varsity.

In retrospect, this has been our legacy. In the 1940s, the Canadian movement of Inter-Varsity answered the same need south of the border. General Director C. Stacey Woods served both countries for many years, establishing the same hope for our friends in the United States. Within a few years, the American movement was strong and beginning to transform lives. With the help of the parent movement in the UK, and several others, the International Fellowship of Evangelical students was born in 1946.


Cathie Nicoll
After 50+ years of service with Inter-Varsity, Cathie was given the Order of Ontario and a Leading Women Award.

At that time, Canada was one of ten founding countries. In 2006, at the 60th anniversary of the IFES, more than 150 countries had member movements, uniting the worldwide ministry to students and bringing the hope of Jesus Christ to all parts of the world.

Around the same time, Inter-Varsity in Canada had a group of students dedicated to God's global mission. It was in December of 1946 that 500 young people gathered for the first Student Missions Convention in Toronto, Ontario. Partnering with the InterVarsity/US movement in 1948, this conference was moved to Urbana, Illinois and began six decades of conferences under the Urbana name. In that time, hundreds of thousands of students have attended. Countless missionaries – both locally and globally – have been met with the challenge of living their lives with a Kingdom purpose.

Urbana - Starting in Toronto, ON in 1946, Urbana has been the destination for hundreds of thousands of mission-minded students

The Urbana Conference in 2006 brought together a record 22,000+ students for five days of worship, Bible study and community in pursuit of God's calling for their generation.

In the 1950s, Inter-Varsity matured into a movement dedicated to the honest and confident proclamation of Christ on the campus and at Pioneer Camps.

On campus, students were called to study the Bible and embrace the academic world. The challenge to address the questions of the intelligensia with a disciplined and structured account of the faith characterized the work. This has continued to be the emphasis with which the ministry has continued.

Through the years, Inter-Varsity has been committed to student leadership, being shaped by each generation and helping them find their own voice. God has truly provided for this ministry since the first days and is working through individuals of great Kingdom influence to see His purposes expressed to every student generation.


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