Canada's oldest English-language university celebrates its 225th year
This school year marks the 225th anniversary of the University of New Brunswick, Canada’s oldest English-language university (only Laval, founded in 1663, trumps it), currently renowned for its engineering, science, and computer programs. Eddy Campbell, UNB president and vice chancellor, says this milestone is just the right opportunity for the university to boast about its considerable accomplishments and rich legacy. “Universities in Atlantic Canada probably don’t receive the national distinction they deserve,” says Campbell. “Canadians are a modest bunch and maybe we don’t take sufficient time to celebrate our success and blow our own horn.”
So the school has planned a series of events that will do just that. First, there’s an honorary degree night at Koerner Hall in Toronto on Sept. 23 that will showcase talented alumni, including Anne Murray and Frank McKenna, as well as five Canadians that the university feels have made an enormous contribution to Canada. The honourees are Carolyn Acker (pioneer in poverty reduction), Purdy Crawford (business leader and dean emeritus of Canada’s corporate bar), Phil Fontaine (former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations), Clara Hughes (Olympic champion and philanthropist) and Alan MacGibbon (UNB alumnus, global strategist, and corporate visionary).
In October, homecoming at UNB will be bigger and splashier than usual, and the history of the university will be documented in a new book about architecture on campus. The university was founded in 1785 by Loyalists who had fled the American Revolution. (A second campus was established in Saint John, N.B., in 1964.) The Fredericton campus houses the oldest university building in the country that is still in regular use for school operations.
The university’s history is also entwined with the legacy of Max Aitken, or Lord Beaverbrook. He was the first modern day chancellor at UNB, a patron of the university, and of course, a towering historical figure who became a press baron and sat on the war cabinet of Winston Churchill. To pay homage to their great benefactor, a “Beaverbrook Celebration” will take place on campus in November.
As Campbell says, “UNB is a great university and it does not always enjoy the kind of reputation it should given its quality.” He adds: “This event is a good opportunity for us to go to Toronto, make a splash, celebrate our accomplishments, and start pointing out to people what great universities we have out here on the east coast.”
Photo: Sir Howard Douglas Hall (Old Arts Building) at the UNB Fredericton Campus; the oldest university building in Canada. Courtesy of the University of New Brunswick.