Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
October 22, 2001
St. Mary's celebrates 15 years
Calgary college striding towards degree-granting status
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
CALGARY — Former College governor Yolande Gagnon marvelled as she joined about 230 other Calgarians in early October to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the incorporation of St. Mary's College.
It was 15 years ago that Gagnon's name, together with the names of four other Calgarians, appeared on Bill 14, the St. Mary's College Act, which was given royal assent on Sept. 18, 1986.
"It's wonderful," Gagnon said afterwards reflecting on the room filled with a record number of guests for the seventh annual President's Dinner.
"It's a real grace," said Gagnon, a former Catholic school board trustee who chaired St. Mary's Board of Governors from 1993 to 2000.
Gagnon, affectionately known as "the mother of St. Mary's," along with Bill Dickie, Roy Farran, Frank Quigley and retired Calgary Bishop Paul O'Byrne, were formally recognized at the $250-a-plate dinner on Oct. 11 at the Roundup Centre.
The 15th anniversary celebration was punctuated with vigorous applause when it was announced that the Catholic liberal arts college located on the site of the former Lacombe Home in Midnapore had concluded negotiations with the Diocese of Calgary to purchase the site for an undisclosed amount.
The college's board of governors will consider the offer at its Oct. 22 meeting.
"The settling of a site agreement, along with hiring a full-time director of business and finance who came on board on Oct. 1, will enable us to complete the application required for degree-granting status," St. Mary's College president Dr. Terrence Downey told the cheering guests.
During the gourmet evening, Downey delivered a state of the college address, beginning with a bit of history about St. Mary's, the first Catholic college in Canadian history to be created mainly by lay persons and led by lay persons from the outset.
"In that sense, it is truly the first such post-Vatican II institution," he said.
After incorporation, St. Mary's offered professional courses for teachers in the Catholic school system and its first credit course in 1994.
In 1997, it introduced two professional development certificate programs for teachers of religious education and Catholic school administrators.
That same year, it initiated a liberal arts university transfer program and accepted its first class of full-time students. The first year, it had fewer than 20 students.
This fall, it has about 320 full- and part-time students, the highest in its history and up 20 per cent from a year ago.
In addition, this year it is offering two courses in Lethbridge about religious education for teachers in the Catholic school system, reflecting the college's commitment to reach out beyond the city of Calgary, Downey said.
Today, St. Mary's offers 98 university courses at the junior and senior level. It has eight full-time faculty members and 25 part-time faculty members. They include Pat Walsh, 64, writer-in-residence and the oldest faculty member, and Leanne MacDonald, 27, coordinator of campus recreation, health and wellness— the youngest faculty member.
The college has had a series of homes since its inception, including rented rooms downtown and at the University of Calgary; later at St. Anthony's School and since mid-1999, the Fr. Lacombe Home site on the edge of Fish Creek Park.
A rapid transit LRT station just opened across the Macleod Trail and a pedestrian overpass — affectionately dubbed "St. Mary's Bridge" — is being completed.
Despite the large campus, enrolment has increased so quickly, it already has parking problems, Downey laughed.
In Calgary, that's a sure sign of success.
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