In November 1890, a new gymnasium was completed at Acadia College, and the College decided to hire a Director of the Gymnasium to maintain the facility. The first Director of the Gymnasium was H. Y. Corey who was hired in December 1890. As was Corey, many of the succeeding Directors of the Gymnasium were students at Acadia.
The introduction of a required gymnasium course in 1910 necessitated the hiring of a qualified instructor. The title of the position was changed to 'Director of Physical Training‘ to better reflect the added teaching duty of the position. Wallace Welton Clark was hired in 1910 as the first Director of Physical Training. (See Appendix for a list of the Directors of Physical Training).
Between 1911 and 1914 all freshmen were required to take the Physical Training course in order to fulfill the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts program. The course was dropped from the schedule during World War One but returned in 1921 as a requirement for freshmen and sophomores in both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science programs.
In the early 1920s, Acadia University created the Department of Physical Education and in 1923 hired William UTerryU Osborne as its first Director. The new department was located within the Faculty of Arts, with a mandate to teach Physical Education to the students and to manage interclass and intercollegiate competitions. The departmental teaching staff was also involved in sports at the high school level, with the goal of teaching sport ethics at an early age.
By the late 1930s, the freshmen and sophomore Physical Education courses were structured in several sections: Activities, Theory, Hygienic Exercises, and Swimming/Diving. Under the category of Activities, students were taught soccer, field hockey, gymnastics, and the girls learned dancing. A swimming course was compulsory for all students. Students going into Education were required to take the Teacher Training Course in addition, and their examination was given by a member of the NS Department of Education. Their grade was determined by the examination result as well as by the recommendation of the Acadia instructor.
Aside from instruction, the Department promoted an active program of competition in many sports, including basketball, hockey, track, tennis, rugby, gymnastics, swimming, football, soccer, and volleyball. Students could opt out of the Physical Training course by joining a team in any sport that competed with other schools. However, once the sport‘s season was over or the student was dropped from the team, he/she had to report back to the class and credit was given for the work done with the team in partial fulfillment of the required work of the course.
During World War Two, Military Training became a compulsory course within the Department. The training and attendance at lectures took so much time that it was found impossible to require Physical Education on the same basis for men of the Freshmen and Sophomore years. However, there were still limited inter-collegiate, inter-class and inter-platoon competitions.
Between the 1949/50 and 1955/56 school years, it was compulsory for freshmen in the Bachelor of Arts program to take Physical Education. This requirement was then dropped until
1965/66 when it again became compulsory and remained so until 1970/71.
Around 1965 the department recognized the interest in competition by the non-varsity students. An Intramural program was designed and remains in place today.
Fred Gerard Kelly had joined the department in 1927 and succeeded Osborne as Director of Physical Education and Athletics in 1940. Kelly remained in this position until his retirement in 1967. William Busching was hired as coach of football and volleyball in 1965 and replaced Kelly upon his retirement. Gilbert Chapman was hired in 1967 as assistant professor and head coach of basketball and soccer. When Busching retired in 1968, Chapman became Head of the Department of Physical Education and Director of Athletics.
The Department of Physical Education changed its name to the Department of Physical Education and Recreation in September 1969. In the 1969/70 school year the Department began to offer a Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Physical Education. This Recreation and Physical Education program at Acadia was one of the first of its kind in the Atlantic Provinces.
The school once again changed its name on 1 June 1974 and became known as the School of Recreation and Physical Education. In 1984 or 1985 the Department split and a separate Department of Athletics controlled intercollegiate competitions, leaving the Department of Physical Education solely in charge of instruction. In 1997, as a result of changing objectives, it became the School of Recreation Management and Kinesiology, which it remains.
The operations of the Department of Physical Education and the Acadia Amateur Athletic Association (AAAA) were closely related so it is undetermined the difference. The AAAA had a Faculty Athletic Committee within the AAAA organization and Osborne served on the committee at one point. AAAA was designed to encourage and develop athletics among the
students and the physical development of its members.