The Memorial University community was saddened today by the news of the death of Dr. Art Sullivan, the first principal of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook.
Dr. Sullivan was principal when the Western Regional College of Memorial first opened its door in September 1975. He continued in the position until 1977, and then returned to the St. John’s campus.
Dr. Eddy Campbell, Memorial’s acting president, noted Dr. Sullivan’s legacy extended beyond his academic contribution.
“Memorial is a great institution because of people like Dr. Art Sullivan,” said Dr. Campbell, “people who value their students and also build the institution well beyond the classroom.”
Born in Trinity, Trinity Bay, Dr. Sullivan earned his first degree at Memorial University, graduating with a BA (Ed.) in 1954. In 1957, he received an MA in clinical psychology from Dalhousie University. Dr. Sullivan was named Rhodes Scholar for Newfoundland in 1957 and he continued his studies at Oxford, where he received BA and MA degrees. Dr. Sullivan joined the faculty of Memorial University in 1960 as assistant professor of psychology. From 1962 to 1964 he studied at McGill University where he received a Ph.D. in psychology in 1964. He then returned to Memorial as associate professor and head of the Department of Psychology. He was promoted to the rank of professor in 1967 and was appointed dean of Junior Studies in 1969.
Dr. Holly Pike, acting principal of Grenfell College, never met Dr. Sullivan, but thinks that his influence and lasting presence here is obvious.
“His work here has brought us to the place we are today – his vision of what Grenfell could and should be is coming to fruition,” she said. “We’re fortunate that someone with foresight and determination was here to build the foundation on which we have built this thriving, evolving campus of Memorial University.”
Dr. Adrian Fowler, professor of English and former Grenfell principal, recalls how Dr. Sullivan brought “great energy and boundless optimism to the task of establishing a campus of Memorial University in western Newfoundland.”
“Probably more than anyone, he helped to create and nurture the sense of community which continues to be a distinctive feature of Grenfell College,” said Dr. Fowler, adding that Dr. Sullivan also ensured that Grenfell was a student-centred institution, another core value that has endured to this day. “Really those first years represented a leap into the unknown, and none of us in 1975 could predict how the experiment would turn out. Art left after two years but I hope he was proud of the important role that he played in the development of university education in western Newfoundland. Grenfell owes much of its success to the solid foundation he laid.”
Dr. Paul Wilson, Grenfell’s senior counsellor, remembers Dr. Sullivan as “a remarkable man.”
“He was the key player in the creation of what was to become Sir Wilfred Grenfell College,” said Dr. Wilson. “Art was always looking for ways to improve on Memorial’s responsibility to serve the people of this province and Grenfell is only one example of his vision and determination. Art and his wife Joan welcomed the faculty and staff of the fledgling university in Corner Brook to their home on many occasions during their two-year stay, and it is to their credit that the college was such a happy and vibrant place to work. This colourful and gregarious colleague will be missed by all that knew him in Corner Brook.”
One of the ways Grenfell College will continue to honour his memory is through the Sullivan Cup, which has been awarded annually since its creation in 1978.
“The Arthur M. Sullivan Award, or the Sullivan Cup, is one of the legacies of Dr Sullivan’s tenure at Grenfell. It was established by Dr. Sullivan after he returned to St John’s. The Sullivan Cup is awarded each year to the student at Grenfell who has made the most significant contribution to student & college life that year. It is a very prestigious award.” said Mary Sparkes, co-ordinator, Student Affairs, who worked with Dr. Sullivan during the early years of the college. “Given his lifelong interest in students, their success & development, I can think of no better way to continue his memory.”
A funeral service will be held in St. John’s on Tuesday, Feb. 19.