On an historic day that had many looking to the promise of the future, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney—Canada’s 18th Prime Minister—took a moment to look to the past as well.
As hundreds gathered on the StFX campus on Sept. 20 to witness the official ground breaking of the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and the Xaverian Commons, a $100 million project heralded as the most transformational in StFX’s history, Mr. Mulroney recalled a transformational moment in his own life.
He told of approaching his father over six decades ago with a plan to take advantage of a new apprenticeship program at the paper mill where the senior Mulroney worked.
“My father’s reply is engraved in my memory,” he said in a stirring speech shortly after turning the sod to mark the construction of the $50 million Mulroney Hall.
“I know, Brian, that times are tough and we could sure use the extra money you would bring in. But I have learned one thing: the only way out of a paper mill town is through a university door – and you are going to university,” he recalled his father saying. “And that is how I wound up at StFX.”
Now, with his wife Dr. Mila Mulroney and daughter Caroline Mulroney Lapham at his side, Mr. Mulroney was back at his alma mater bringing transformational opportunities for others.
Not only will Mulroney Hall impact generations of students – including needy but worthy students in the form of $10 million raised in scholarships and bursaries—it will provide a lasting legacy and strategic asset for StFX and the broader community for years to come, speaker after speaker noted.
“This is not a StFX story or a provincial story. This is a national story,” StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald remarked as he said the changes they speak of will go far beyond a beautiful new 95,000 square foot building. It will transform the student experience at StFX as well as positively impacting the surrounding region.
The joy of doing an announcement like this is the impact it will have on students who are not even here yet, the impact it will have on students that are not even born yet, he said.
“This is what it means to leave a legacy. The Mulroney legacy is one we will always be indebted to here at StFX.”
Dr. MacDonald thanked Mr. Mulroney and his family, the Hon. Frank McKenna, and the StFX Development Office for their tireless efforts in securing private donor funding for the project, including $10 million that will go toward student scholarships and bursaries and $10 million to create new endowed chairs for faculty that will address such issues as Canada-U.S. relations, women in leadership, climate and the environment and human rights. Construction on the facility also comes with the future development of the greater Xaverian Commons project, he said.
Central Nova MP Sean Fraser spoke of how exciting it is to officially break ground on the Mulroney Institute of Government and spoke about the impacts the project will have both on the university and the region in terms of economic and social impacts.
Not only will it create an excellent learning space, it will generate jobs and economic activity and leave the region with a strategic asset that will offer benefits for generations to come, he said.
Nova Scotia Labour and Advanced Education Minister, the Hon. Labi Kousoulis added similar sentiments, noting how the project will spur economic activity, add to the life and vibrancy on campus and build on StFX’s outstanding reputation.
CULMINATION OF A DREAM
“Today represents the culmination of a dream,” Mr. Mulroney said in remarks during the official ceremony.
StFX students, he said, will now benefit from a unique opportunity at the only public policy institute at a Canadian university directed towards undergraduate students.
This will provide students with remarkable preparation for graduate studies or for careers in the public service of all governments in Canada along with agencies ranging from the Bank of Canada to the United Nations, and will help to continue and strengthen the service StFX graduates will be able to render in so many new fields to people here and elsewhere around the world.
“This event today is a result of the unparalleled generosity and support of benefactors in the private sector here and elsewhere across the globe. It simply would not have been possible without them,” Mr. Mulroney said on their vital support.
He also underlined the tremendous help received for the greater Xaverian Commons project from the provincial and federal governments, which have contributed $5 million and $30 million respectively.
He thanked former StFX President Dr. Sean Riley and former VP Tim Lang who proposed the idea, and current StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald, for all their work and support.
Mr. Mulroney thanked his wife Mila and their children, Caroline in particular, for their unswerving support.
“It was a high honour for me to be of some service to this special place,” he noted.
As they worked to flesh out the vision, Dr. MacDonald, he said, has been able to look around the corner of history with his idea for the Xaverian Commons – “a transformational development including Mulroney Hall, the Institute and related buildings, scholarships and bursaries, together with special endowments for African Nova Scotians and Aboriginal students, which will represent an investment of $100 million and change StFX forever.
“That is the way history is made.”
Students’ Union president Annie Sirois and Paq’tnekek Mi’kmaq First Nations Elder Kerry Prosper also spoke at the ceremony. Dean or Arts Dr. Karen Brebner emceed the event.
A number of special events also marked the day. Mr. Mulroney met with faculty and delivered a student lecture during his visit to campus.
Earlier in the day, Caroline Mulroney Lapham and Mila Mulroney joined with StFX Chancellor Dr. Susan Crocker and StFX VP and Coady International Director Dr. June Webber to speak with student leaders on the topic of Women in Leadership.
As well, an afternoon information session for the campus community provided both an update on the institute’s academic programming and a presentation from Mulroney Hall architects on the design and layout of the new building.