The university was founded in 1964 as one of a series of universities created in Ontario to handle the undergraduate education of baby boomers. Other universities created about the same time were Trent, Lakehead, Windsor and Laurentian. These universities were founded in smaller cities, most of which had not previously had a university. They were often evolved from one or more smaller colleges already present in their communities. After completing their undergraduate studies at these local universities, it was expected that the students would go on to postgraduate studies at the larger, more established universities such as Toronto, Western and Queen's.
Brock is named in honour of Sir Isaac Brock, a British Major General who fell at the head of his troops while defending Canada from an American invasion during the War of 1812. Although Brock had little regard for the colonials, Canadians see him as one of their great heroes.