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Memorial University's new $16 million University Centre named after the late Joseph R. Smallwood

Ref. No. 84

DATE:     Dec. 21, 2000
RELEASE DATE:     Upon receipt
SUBJECT:     Memorial University's new $16 million University Centre named after the late Joseph R. Smallwood

He was one of Newfoundland and Labrador's most colourful and influential public figures. He was also a great supporter of Memorial University, and today Memorial President Axel Meisen and Edward Roberts, chairman of the university's Board of Regents, announced that the new $16 million University Centre will be officially named the Smallwood Centre. The announcement comes as the 100th anniversary of Mr. Smallwood's birth approaches on Dec. 24, 2000.

Having a university in the province was one of Mr. Smallwood's dreams. When he became premier in 1949, one of the first pieces of legislation his newly minted government enacted elevated Memorial University College to degree-granting status which created the institution known as Memorial University of Newfoundland. He was subsequently a great supporter and promoter of the university, and much of the university's early growth -- including the construction of the Elizabeth Avenue campus in St. John's, the opening of the Ocean Sciences Centre, and the creation of the medical school -- had his direct support during his lengthy tenure as premier.

At the opening of the new Elizabeth Avenue campus on Oct. 9, 1961, Premier Smallwood listed the three great things that have happened to Newfoundland: " its discovery by John Cabot, the coming of Confederation and the building of our great university. We are all of us deeply proud of the progress which our new university signals to all Canada."

The official name of the new building was recommended by a committee of the Board of Regents which included student and faculty representatives. The board accepted the committee's unanimous recommendation to name the building in Mr. Smallwood's honour.

"Memorial would have become a university without Joseph Smallwood, whether he was premier or not," Mr. Roberts noted. "However, it would not be the university it is today. He fostered it in every way possible and he made certain that government supported it financially and generously. He was a great benefactor to Memorial. Indeed, he was our greatest."

"It is fitting that the hub of campus life, our new University Centre, will be named after Mr. Smallwood," Dr. Meisen noted at the news conference held to announce the new building's new name. "Mr. Smallwood was a visionary and great supporter of education in this province and we are delighted that the building at the centre of the St. John's campus will bear his name."

Hon. Dr. Joseph R. Smallwood Joseph R. Smallwood, the first of 13 children, was born in Gambo, Bonavista Bay, on Dec. 24, 1900. He and his family moved to St. John's the following year. After schooling at Bishop Feild College, Mr. Smallwood went to work as a journalist with the St. John's Evening Telegram. He also spent some time between writing jobs working with the union and co-operative movements in Canada and the United States. When he became host of the VONF radio program, The Barrelman, in 1937, he became a household name throughout Newfoundland. After the Second World War, Mr. Smallwood took up the cause of Confederation. In 1946, he was elected a delegate to the national convention on Newfoundland's political future. He is recognized as the architect of Newfoundland's confederation with Canada. Thanks to his leadership, on July 22, 1948, a majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians agreed to join Canada. The Terms of Union were negotiated and, just seconds before midnight on March 31, 1949, Newfoundland became Canada's 10th province. After winning the new province's inaugural election on May 27, 1949, Mr. Smallwood sought and received the approval of the province's voters five more times - 1951, 1956, 1959, 1962 and 1966 and was one of Newfoundland's longest serving premiers. Among his successes while in office was the creation and development of Memorial University of Newfoundland, including the opening of the Elizabeth Avenue campus in St. John's on Oct. 9, 1961. His other accomplishments while premier included opening Labrador's iron mines and the giant Churchill Falls hydroelectric project. He received an honorary doctor of letters degree from Memorial University in October of 1961. Mr. Smallwood retired from politics in 1977. He spent the final years of his life completing his Encyclopedia of Newfoundland. Joseph R. Smallwood died on Dec. 18, 1991.


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