Then and Now: Memorial’s Elizabeth Avenue campus turns 50
Opening day of the Elizabeth Avenue campus on Oct. 9, 1961.
Memorial University has reached an important milestone. Sunday, Oct. 9, marked 50 years since Newfoundland and Labrador's university first called Elizabeth Avenue in St. John's "home."
The university's original, modest quarters in one building on nearby Parade Street are a distant memory as the institution reflects on a half century of growth. Founded in 1925 as Memorial University College, Memorial was elevated to university status in 1949 as one of the first acts of the legislature of the new Canadian province.
"On Oct. 9, 1961, nine years after the cornerstone was laid, this province's first and only university opened its doors on Elizabeth Avenue," said Dr. Gary Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor.
The development of the new infrastructure was a major provincial milestone -- the culmination of nearly a decade of planning by university and government officials. Spearheaded by former university president Ray Gushue (1952-66) and former premier Joseph R. Smallwood, the opening created quite the buzz in the province's capital city.
Chancellors and vice-chancellors from 43 Canadian universities and colleges attended a special convocation ceremony, held to celebrate the occasion. Honorary degrees were conferred upon 17 distinguished individuals, including Prime Minister John Diefenbaker; Eleanor Roosevelt, representing the president of the United States; Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire; and Premier Joseph Smallwood himself. All were in attendance to witness and celebrate the new campus opening, and the beginning of a new phase in Memorial's development.
"I don't think anyone could have imagined then the incredible growth and the significant impact that the university would have over the decades to follow," said Dr. Kachanoski.
Memorial has indeed grown in leaps and bounds. In the 1960s alone, the university evolved from a small, primarily undergraduate institution to a comprehensive university offering master's and doctoral degrees in disciplines ranging from folklore to pharmacy to mathematics and statistics.
When the Elizabeth Avenue campus – comprised of the Arts and Administration, Science, Physical Education and Library (Henrietta Harvey) buildings – opened in 1961, just under 2,000 students were enrolled.
Instead of just four buildings, today Memorial now boasts four campuses – the St. John's and Marine Institute campuses in St. John's, Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook and Harlow campus in the U.K. And with new student residences under construction on both the St. John's and Grenfell campuses, Memorial's evolution continues.
"The St. John's campus alone is now home to more than 40 buildings over 250 hectares," said Dr. Kachanoski. "And with almost 19,000 students enrolled across all campuses and more than 65,000 alumni worldwide, as well as 1,000 faculty and 2,500 staff, we have a lot to celebrate."
Throughout this academic year, the university will remember this milestone in its history and highlight the impact Memorial has had on the province and the lives of the people here and around the world.
"As we look to the future," said Dr. Kachanoski, "we trust that Memorial's continued success will be shaped by the collaborative effort involving every segment of Newfoundland and Labrador society that has brought us this far, and which will advance Memorial during the next 50 years."
For more information on the 1961 milestone and related activities and events over the coming year, visit www.mun.ca/thenandnow.