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St John's College.

Founding College of U of M celebrating 150th anniversary

April 24, 2017 — 

St John’s College, one of the founding colleges of the University of Manitoba, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this weekend by welcoming graduates back to campus.

St John’s College was officially opened by Bishop Robert Machray on November 1, 1866, but the origin of the College dates back to the early years of the Red River Settlement. The first Anglican clergyman in the Northwest interior of Canada was Reverend John West who, in 1820, established the first English school in the Red River Settlement. Subsequent schools and more clergy arriving led to the creation of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land in 1849. In 1877, St John’s College, St Boniface College and Manitoba College became the founding colleges in the University of Manitoba. However, St John’s College has always maintained its strong connection to the Anglican Church.

“St John’s College is a small community of scholars and students who can interact easily,” says Christopher Trott, Warden of St John’s College. “Modern pedagogy has shown that everyone learns much more effectively in an environment where they can study and work with others and this is precisely what a College does. The College always provided an intimate atmosphere for study where the students had easy access to the teaching faculty as well as other students.”

A number of activities are planned for the reunion weekend, including a gala dinner and dance happening on Saturday, April 29. Mayor Brian Bowman, who was a member of St John’s College when he attended the U of M, is speaking at the dinner about his reminiscences and experience here. CBC Radio host Ismaila Alfa is the emcee for the event, and will introduce other distinguished guests including: U of M President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. David Barnard; St John’s College Warden Dr. Christopher Trott; Terry Duguid, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South; Sarah Guillemard, MLA for Fort Richmond; and The Rt. Rev. Dr. Donald Phillips, Chancellor of St John’s College.

An outstanding example of inclusivity in education, St John’s College was one of the first institutions in Canada to admit women. Further, until 1945 it was located on North Main Street in the heart of the Jewish and immigrant communities in Winnipeg. At a time when there were quotas for admitting Jews to post-secondary education, Jews were freely admitted to St John’s, which before WWI had a Zionist Society. This diversity provided a rich atmosphere for study that did not exist elsewhere at the time.

A pre-reunion symposium is taking place on Thursday, April 27, 2017, focusing on the history of St John’s College.

Approximately 900 students from all faculties and departments are currently members of the College. They are part of a noble legacy. Notable alumni of St John’s College include: the Right Honourable Ed Schreyer, 16th Premier of Manitoba and the 22nd Governor-General of Canada; Hartley Richardson, Chief Executive Officer and President, James Richardson & Sons, Limited; and Jillian Welch, Senior Specialist Advisor, Financial Intermediaries and Trusts, Tax Legislation Division, Department of Finance, Government of Canada, who was one of the first female Rhodes Scholars.

“We have many, many testimonies from people about how St John’s ‘saved them’ or ‘rescued them’ when they were young and making decisions on moving forward in their lives,” says Trott. “Most of these people came to the College very confused about what they wanted to do and what way they should move forward. The close relationships at the College allowed them the space and time to work this out and many have moved forward on that basis.”

He adds: “This combination of close intimate study, close personal relationships, residence all contribute to developing strong leaders. Along with a liberal arts education, which involves a strong debating culture, you have the crucible for leadership. This has always been the core of life at the College.”

The 150th Reunion Weekend includes:

Friday, April 28, 2017

3:00 p.m. – Registration and self-guided Art Tour and Archive Memorabilia

6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – Compline

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Wine & Cheese and Death by Chocolate!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – Alumni Gathering, Reunion Group Photo, Lunch of the Decades

5:30 p.m. – Reception

6:30 p.m. – Gala Dinner with guest Mayor Brian Bowman (’96)

8:00 p.m. – Photo booth and live music by “Rock the House”

Sunday, April 30, 2017

11:00 am to noon – Worship Service

Noon to 1:30 p.m. – Reunion windup and buffet lunch

For more information and tickets, contact: Jill [dot] Stafford [at] umanitoba [dot] ca or call (204) 474-7381.

A look back at St John College over the years is available online. 

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