Knox College is a theological college in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in Canada, it is a member school of the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto. The Presbyterian Church of Canada established Knox's College, at Toronto, in 1844.
In 1843, controversy arose in the Church of Scotland over the issue of state control, leading to the establishment of the Free Church of Scotland. In response, a number of Presbyterian ministers and congregations within the Canadian synod of the Church of Scotland switched their affiliation to the new denomination, forming the Free Church of Scotland (Canadian Synod). When Presbyterian theological seminary Queen's College (Kingston, Canada West) decided to remain affiliated with the Church of Scotland, a number of its theological students left in 1844 to form Free Church-affiliated Knox's College, named after Scottish Reformation theologian John Knox.
Knox College, a Presbyterian college and seminary was founded in 1844. In November 1844, the first class of 14 students began training in the home of Rev. Henry Esson on James Street, on the present site of Toronto Eaton Centre. The following year (1845), a larger house was acquired at 79 Adelaide Street West, and in 1846, Knox College moved to Front Street West, opposite today's Union Station and on the present site of the Fairmount Royal York (formerly Royal York Hotel). Scottish minister Rev. Dr. Michael Willis, the founding president of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada (1851), became the first Principal of Knox College in 1857; he had come to Toronto in 1846 from St. John's Church in Glasgow, Scotland, where he had followed Thomas Chalmers, and sided with him in the 1843 Disruption. Willis retired in 1870 to London, England.
In 1861, after the formation of the Canada Presbyterian Church from the merger of the Free Church of Scotland (Canadian Synod) with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland (Canadian Synod), Knox College united with the existing United Presbyterian Church theological college (also founded 1844) that had been started in London, Canada West, but had moved into Toronto in the 1850s.
In 1867, Knox College assisted in the formation of The Presbyterian College (Montreal, Quebec), the second theological college affiliated with the Canada Presbyterian Church; Knox College donated a number of books from its library, and a number of Knox alumni have served as faculty, including their present Principal.
By 1875, the same year the Canada Presbyterian Church joined with three other Presbyterian churches in Canada to form the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Knox College dedicated a new building on Spadina Avenue. This location was to be the primary theological seminary for the new Presbyterian Church in Canada.
To ensure its long-term viability, Knox College began considering various forms of union with the University of Toronto towards the end of the 19th century. Knox College became affiliated with the University of Toronto in 1885 and federated in 1890. Thereby, Knox College give up the right to confer all save theology and divinity degrees.
In 1969 the Toronto School of Theology (TST) was created as an independent federation of 7 schools of theology, including the divinity faculties of Knox College. Within its own federation, U of T granted all but theology or divinity degrees. Since 1978, by virtue of a change made in its charter, the University of Toronto has granted theology degrees conjointly with Knox College and other TST's member institutions.
The present building, completed in 1914, is located between the west side of King's College Circle and St. George Street in the heart of the University of Toronto campus. It was expected to become the main theological seminary of the United Church of Canada, when the Canadian Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists joined together to form the new denomination in 1925. However, the Ontario legislature awarded the Knox College property to the "continuing Presbyterians". In response, the entire faculty and a majority of the theology students of Knox College left to form Union College, a theological seminary of the new denomination. In 1928, Union College united with Methodist theological seminary Victoria College, forming Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto.
During World War II, while the campus of The Presbyterian College, Montreal, was used for military training, its faculty and students temporarily joined with Knox College in Toronto until 1946. In the 1960s planning stages of the now-aborted Spadina Expressway, parts of Knox College would have been demolished.
In 1991, Ewart College, a historical women's college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in Canada, merged with Knox College. It was initially (1897) known as the Ewart Missionary Training Home, then the Presbyterian Missionary and Deaconess Training School, but then renamed after Mrs. Catherine Seaton Ewart, when the present building (now Ernescliff College) was constructed in 1960.
Knox College celebrated its 150th Anniversary in 1994 with the publication of Church, College, and Clergy: a History of Theological Education at Knox College Toronto 1844-1994, by Dr. Brian J. Fraser.
In October 2005, a joint statement from the Principals of Knox College and Presbyterian College was released, informing that formal discussions towards amalgamating both institutions had been unanimously adopted by their respective Boards of Governors on October 6, 2005.
A number of faculty have served as Acting Principal during vacancies and sabbaticals.