An image of the proposed St. Jerome’s University campus from a southeast perspective.

St. Jerome’s University unveils future plans

  • June 15, 2011

St. Jerome’s University is dreaming big. By 2015 the Catholic college at the University of Waterloo hopes to be well into a building and expansion program that will begin with a new residence and include an updated library and classrooms, a new student centre and a new graduate program.

St. Jerome’s “Strategic Vision: 2015 and Beyond” lays out the broad strokes, but by fall a campaign team expects to present to the board of governors fundraising goals and priorities, St. Jerome’s president and vice chancellor Fr. David Perrin told The Catholic Register.

“What the vision (statement) strives to do is articulate who we are and who we are proud to be, and where we want to go,” Perrin said.

The vision should start to become a reality in time for the college’s 150th anniversary in 2015, said Perrin.

Fundraising efforts may get a boost from St. Jerome’s incoming chancellor, Jim Beingessner. The 72-year-old former president of B&W Heat Treating and founding chair of Canada’s Technology Triangle has a history of volunteering that has included work with St. Mary’s Hospital, the Kitchener Chamber of Commerce, the Children’s Aid Society, the Waterloo Region Social Resources Council and Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo.

Beingessner sold the family business, Canada’s largest commercial heat treater with sales over $10 million per year, in 2002. A date for Beingessner’s installation has not been set. While raising funds isn’t necessarily easy, there are reasons to think St. Jerome’s could be successful, said university fundraising veteran Lorna Somers, director of development at MacMaster University.

“My suspicion is that they’re in an environment in Waterloo where they see some incredible and successful fundraising going on every day. It’s a case of the tide comes in and all the ships float,” Somers told The Catholic Register.

As a little Catholic college with just over 800 full-time students, St. Jerome’s doesn’t have to compete with larger institutions for donor dollars, she said.

“I have seen extraordinary success that’s not predicated on size or punching power,” said Somers. “I don’t think it’s a matter of their size. It’s more a factor of how well have they defined who they are, what they do and the difference they make in the lives of the people who might support them.”

The story Perrin hopes donors hear about St. Jerome’s should be all about Catholic identity, genuine community and academic excellence.

“Our alumni are our best allies. We’ve been very successful in graduating students who believe in the St. Jerome’s experience and can articulate the St. Jerome’s difference,” Perrin said.

Many of today’s St. Jerome’s students are the children or grandchildren of St. Jerome’s graduates, said Perrin. That sense of tradition is a major asset.

Perrin hopes to deepen the university’s ties to the diocese of Hamilton and the archdiocese of Toronto. Catholic organizations from hospitals to school boards have been able to draw on St. Jerome’s for help in shoring up their own Catholic mission and identity, especially by training their leaders through the St. Jerome’s Master’s in Catholic Thought program, he said.

St. Jerome’s has a new undergraduate minor in Catholic studies ready to roll out pending approval from the University of Waterloo. The next project will be a graduate program that builds on existing undergraduate programs in either legal studies or sexuality, marriage and family studies.

Fundraising is going to be essential to St. Jerome’s plans, said Perrin.

“We do not receive funding from the provincial government for infrastructure renewal or expansion, unlike our counterparts in Ontario — roughly 20 of them — who are members of the council of universities of Ontario and receive funding directly through the provincial government. St. Jerome’s University as a federated university with the University of Waterloo does not have access to those monies.”

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