Building the Future
by Dr. Gerry Turcotte, President, St. Mary’s University
“It’s strongest stem became a ruler’s scepter” ~ Ezekiel 19:11 ~
A friend of mine proudly admits that she has celebrated her 30th birthday for nearly fifteen years and I wisely never add: “and you have not celebrated it for a further ten!” Sometimes a man knows when to keep his mouth shut. Otherwise I think it’s true to say that 30th birthdays don’t come around all that often, and when they do, they deserve a bit of fanfare. So it is for St. Mary’s University in Midnapore. It may surprise some to learn that we are celebrating our 30th year as an educational institution! That’s quite an achievement for a university that began, really, as an act of faith. A group of dedicated individuals felt it was critical for Calgary to have its own Catholic university, and through key personal donations, they got the ball rolling. Now here we are on a beautiful 35-acre campus in the “deep south” of Calgary, the fastest-growing post-secondary institution for two of the last three years!
We have an extraordinary focus on the Liberal Arts and Sciences, a wonderful Bachelor of Education degree focused on the formation of students wanting to teach in the Catholic school system, and a remarkable social justice focus that has seen us develop academic programs, free of charge, for Calgary’s most economically disadvantaged citizens. Over one-fifth of the university community volunteers in some capacity, and we have created an extraordinary partnership with local First Nations communities.
And now, thanks to generous donors, we will be breaking ground on the development of a new Heritage Centre that will provide new teaching and performance space, new dining and social gathering areas, and expanded room for both indoor and outdoor events. The venue will include a 110-seat theatre space with state-of-the-art lighting and sound technology. Better still, the Heritage Centre will be our first new building in a decade, and should be available for use by the end of the year: hopefully in time for us to celebrate our official 30th birthday on September 18, 2016.
This is an exciting development, but the reality remains that St. Mary’s University is remarkable because of its people, its commitment to academic freedom and its investment in students. We believe in small-class sizes that average 21 students. We believe in educating the whole person: mind, body and spirit. And we believe that a university is a place that champions the future – and that this is best achieved by celebrating and supporting outstanding students who become the leaders of tomorrow. We put students first, but in so doing we remind them similarly to put ethics, faith and community first in their own lives. We want them to go out into the world and change it for the better, just as they make St. Mary’s all the better for being here.