Catholic higher ed lives on in Charlottetown

  • October 25, 2015

Despite shuttering its doors and selling its campus in 1969, St. Dunstan’s University is still maintaining the presence of Catholic education on Prince Edward Island.

The Catholic university in Charlottetown was established in 1831, first as St. Andrew’s College and renamed St. Dunstan’s College in 1855. It was sold to the provincial government in 1969 to house the newly created University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), and while it no longer operates a campus, its board continues its mandate to foster and promote Catholic education in the Charlottetown diocese.

Since 1969 St. Dunstan’s has provided UPEI with more than $5 million to promote Catholic higher education. Earlier this month St. Dunstan’s board of governors committed to another $1 million donation to UPEI’s capital campaign, which is seeking to raise $50 million by 2018.

While $400,000 will go towards funding the construction of a new engineering building and another $100,000 will support necessary on campus “improvements,” the rest will be used to support Catholic learning.

“The way that $500,000 is broken down is $50,000 a year for 10 years unless circumstances were such that we could and should increase it,” said George Morrison, the board’s president and executive director.

Each year that money could be used for providing financial support to UPEI students engaged in Catholic studies abroad, fund extra-curricular activities for the religious studies department and bringing in prominent Catholic speakers.

Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, president of UPEI, said the St. Dunstan’s donation is “creating opportunities” for students.

“With leadership and support like that shown by the St. Dunstan’s University Board of Governors, UPEI will continue to evolve and deliver the exceptional learning experiences and opportunities that prepare our students for success,” he said.

Keeping Catholic education alive at the post-secondary level is nothing new for the St. Dunstan’s University board.

“If you were to go through the minutes of the St. Dunstan’s University Board of Governors meetings, there was always a push if you will or desire to have Catholic” education continue in the province, said Morrison. “For the last 10 years St. Dunstan University has paid up to $100,000 a year to have five or six Catholic studies courses offered at UPEI each year. Now we’re adding to that.”

About 70 students enrol in Catholic studies annually.

In addition to paying for the Catholic studies courses, and now a portion of the extra-curricular activities that go along with those classes, the St. Dunstan’s board also funds scholarships for some UPEI students. It offers a $5,000 four-year renewable scholarship, with a requirement the recipient takes four Catholic studies courses over the four years.

The board runs what is now known at the Bishops Parlour on campus, but that will become the St. Dunstan’s University Institute for Christianity and Culture in the near future.

“Us and UPEI are going to turn it into the office, the physical presence (of St. Dunstan’s) if you will,” said Morrison, noting that the room is located in the oldest building on the campus. “It will also serve as a common room for students on a St. Dunstan’s University scholarship.”

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