STU’s 110 anniversary will look different for the first time in a century

St. Thomas University as seen in Chatham, N.B. (Submitted: St. Thomas University)

St. Thomas University will celebrate its 110 anniversary on Oct. 5 and STU is more than a century old, but this is the first time in its long history that a celebration will be mostly online because of COVID-19. 

Sarah Kohut, St. Thomas University Students’ Union president and a member of the anniversary planning committee, said STUSU still plans to host exciting events.

“There will be a combination of in-person as well as virtual events to make sure everyone is included,” she said. 

Kohut said on Oct. 5, video messages from STU president and vice-chancellor Dawn Russell and other faculty and alumni will be posted to STU’s social media. There will also be a photo slideshow of STU campuses past and present.

The history of STU

James Rogers, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Chatham, started the university. While STU’s traditional birth date is 1910, the university began in 1860 as St. Michael’s College in Chatham, New Brunswick, according to Jason O’Hearn, a member of the university senate’s learning and teaching development committee.

“Due to financial constraints, they shut down the college first in 1871 [or] 72, then again in 1880,” O’Hearn said.

“That’s why we don’t recognize that as our anniversary.”

The Basilian Fathers assumed order of the college in 1910, he said. 

Since they already owned a school in Toronto with the same name, St. Michael’s College was changed upon reopening to St. Thomas College, named after Saint Thomas Aquinas. 

In 1934, the college received degree-granting status from the New Brunswick government and became a university. Its name changed to St. Thomas University in 1960. In 1964, STU moved from Chatham to the University of New Brunswick campus in Fredericton, said O’Hearn.

An overview of STU prior to the construction of Sir James Dunn Hall, J.B. O’Keefe Centre, Margaret Norrie McCain Hall and Brian Mulroney Hall. (Submitted: St. Thomas University)

While COVID-19 restrictions meant some plans had to be scrapped, Misheal said there are positives celebrating online, like being able to reach more people. 

“When I witness the accomplishments and stories of our alumni, the resilience of my fellow students, the dedication of our staff and faculty, and the contribution of our partners, I can say I am a proud STU-dent,” said O’Hearn

Anniversary activities

A virtual banner will appear on the university’s website the same day. Instead of cake, Kohut and alumni office members will hand-out individually wrapped tea cookies to on-campus students, faculty and staff.

St. Thomas University’s flagship building — now called George Martin Hall — pictured in the 1970s before its pillar construction. (Submitted: St. Thomas University)

“I [also] encourage current students to share their memories of STU on their social media accounts,” said Kohut.

Jodi Misheal vice-president of advancement and alumni relations discussed festivities for alumni.

“We have a STU memories page on the alumni website so people can send in their memories,” said Misheal.

She said other plans include a video of alumni around the world reciting the STU chant and a contest where participants can win one of four STU swag prizes. Winners will be drawn the day of the anniversary.

O’Hearn said STU has educated people from all over the world and those people have used their education at STU to make it a better place.

“Reflecting on our past gives me a sense of pride, hope, and determination that when we look to the STU of the future, the principles and values of our university that has bonded our community for 110 years will live on in every past, present, and future Tommie.”