Memorial University of Newfoundland:
A retrospective



by Dr. Melvin Baker, BA(Hons.'73, MA '76,PhD'81(Western)

M emorial University College officially opened on September15, 1925, as a two-year junior college, preparing students for admission into universities outside Newfoundland. In 1925, 57 students were enrolled. The first president of the college was John Lewis Paton; he was succeeded in 1933 by Albert Hatcher.

One of the acts of the new provincial government in













August 1949 was to make the college a degree-granting institution. There were 307 students for the first year of university status. Memorial's first president was Albert Hatcher (1949-1952); in 1952 Raymond Gushue succeeded him. The university's mission was to provide a post-secondary education and to promote Newfoundland's social, cultural, and economic development.


The academic policy was to proceed slowly with degree patterns established on sound academic lines, with broad-based undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences, then masters' programs in the mid-1950s in selected disciplines and doctoral degree programs in the 1960s.
The university occupied the college campus at the intersection of Parade Street and Merrymeeting Road. By the late 1950s this campus was too small and the government constructed a new 120-acre campus on Elizabeth Avenue. It officially opened in October 1961. New research and teaching programs were introduced in the 1960s. The Institute of Social and Economic Research was established in 1961 to conduct research into the social and economic problems of the province. The Marine Sciences Research Laboratory at Logy Bay opened in 1967, and the Department of Folklore, created in 1968, was the first of its kind in English Canada, offering BA, MA and PhD degrees. In 1966 President Gushue retired and M.O. Morgan, dean of arts and science, served as president until June 1967, when Stephen Taylor, a medical doctor and a member of the British House of Lords, was appointed president.

Students at the main entrance at the
Parade Street campus, 1952.




















Joint Services Ball


Students writing exams in 1933

















View of the Elizabeth Avenue campus in October 1961:
L-R: Physical Education Building, Arts and Administration, Science Building and the library.
The dining hall and Bowater and Rothermere Houses are behind the Science Building.


During the 1960s Memorial evolved from a small undergraduate institution into a comprehensive university. With government support, new undergrad and grad degree programs were established in nursing, medicine, engineering and social welfare. Lord Taylor retired in August 1973 and was succeeded by M.O. Morgan, an alumnus whose association with Memorial had begun as a student in the 1930s and continued as a professor and administrator after 1950. In September 1975 the university opened a junior college at Corner Brook. Named Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in 1979, it offered the first two years of an undergraduate degree program in arts and science, as well as courses in education. In the early 1990s the college inaugurated select four-year degree programs in arts and science and initiated a bachelor of fine arts program.

The university also established a strong distance education program in the 1970s, pioneering in Canada the use of teleconferencing and telemedicine in the delivery of education and medical services to distant areas of the province. Activities in Labrador were co-ordinated through the Labrador Institute of Northern Studies, established in 1979 and based at Goose Bay. The 1970s saw the creation of research institutes in ocean engineering and ocean sciences. In 1979 Memorial launched a successful fund-raising campaign for a commerce building, a library (which began service in 1982), and scholarships and research. When President Morgan retired in August 1981, he was succeeded by another MUN alumnus, vice-president (academic) Leslie Harris. Economic restraint was a dominant theme during the 1980s, as the province experienced a downturn in its economy. Pressures on the university grew as enrolment continued to rise; new programs were added, including women's studies and pharmacy.


Sir Wilfred Grenfell College


Full-mission ship's bridge simulator, MI

The Maltings at Harlow showing extension to the right constructed in 1988 containing staff offices and a lecture room. This building has 11 single and 10 double study bedrooms for students.


Inside the Arts Building, Grenfell College:
an open staircase higlights a lobby flooded with natural light.




A master's program was instituted in toxicology,
as well as MA and PhD degrees in food science.
The Department of Music, established in 1975, was elevated to the status of a school in 1985.
The Centre for Earth Resources Research was
set up in 1983 to co-ordinate geological study.

  Fisheries research was further enhanced with the creation in 1986 of the Canadian Centre for International Fisheries Training and Development to provide and co-ordinate Canadian assistance to developing countries. In 1985 the Natural Research Council of Canada established the research facility, the Institute for Marine Dynamics, on the campus. Seabright Corporation was set up in 1986 to stimulate economic development by transferring university expertise in development to the private sector.     President Harris retired in 1990 and was succeeded by a third alumnus, Arthur W. May. During the 1990s the provincial government enacted fiscal measures to reduce its annual budgetary deficits and the university responded to grant reductions through wage restraint, budgeted cost reductions, tuition increases, and organizational and staff changes.
In 1996 the university negotiated a three-year budgetary agreement with the

government whereby Memorial successfully managed its finances to accommodate the reductions in its grant.

In 1992 the government merged the Marine Institute with the university. In 1995 MI commenced offering bachelor of technology and bachelor of maritime studies, and master of marine studies (fisheries resource management) in 1997.

    In March 1997 the university launched a $50-million fund-raising campaign to provide new student services facilities, scholarships, and support for teaching and research initiatives. The campaign, which has reached its goal, is ongoing.

    The largest university in Atlantic Canada, under the leadership of a new president, Dr. Axel Meisen, Memorial has approximately 16,000 students: 14,200 undergraduates and 1,600 graduates. The university has lived up to the promise of 1949 with its profound impact on the cultural, economic, and social life of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has awarded more than 50,000 degrees, most to residents of the province.

Dr. Baker is the university archivist.

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