Lyndon Linklater of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner was one of the special guests to address dignitaries, faculty, alumni, students and staff gathered for the grand opening of a $5-million North Building Renewal Project at St. Thomas More College Sept. 15 in Saskatoon. (Kiply Lukan Yaworski photo)
SASKATOON — The mission of St. Thomas More College (STM) will be enhanced and strengthened by a recently completed renovation project on the north side of the building, according to leaders speaking at an official grand opening Sept. 15 in Saskatoon.
The $5 million renewal and expansion at the federated Catholic college on the University of Saskatchewan campus included major additions and renewal to STM’s research library; increased energy efficiency and sustainability; an expansion of the popular Choices cafeteria; the installation of an elevator to ensure accessibility to all levels of the building; as well as new student-centred space, including a bright and comfortable lounge and a student services hub.
The ground-breaking for the North Building Renewal Project was held in May 2016, with the work completed as students arrived this September. The new development is on the opposite side of the STM campus from the major building addition that was completed in 2013.
STM President Dr. Terry Downey said the grand opening offered a chance to both appreciate the past and recommit to the future.
“My colleagues and I commit to uphold and enhance all that has been entrusted to us by our illustrious predecessors,” Downey said. “We do so at the outset by acknowledging that however proud we are of this handsome new facility, what really matters is what happens in these buildings, day in and day out. We mark this historic occasion by recommitting ourselves to the Catholic intellectual tradition.”
That tradition, which brings faith and reason into rigorous dialogue, is needed now more than ever, Downey said.
“We recall what is at the root of any Catholic institution of higher learning: the belief that each one of us is created in the image and likeness of God — including those who think, look, act, and believe differently than ourselves. As such, we recognize that each person is characterized by an inherent dignity that deserves the utmost respect,” he said, stressing the need for civilized discourse in creating a healthy democracy.
“The grounds have shifted under the feet of those who live in western society. Rights have been endangered, great nations have turned inward, starving refugees have been turned away from wealthy borders and wealthy shores, immigrants and those of certain faiths have been villainized as politicians trade on people’s fears, ignorance and prejudice. Our own society has by no means been immune,” he said. “There has never been a greater need for an informed citizenry.”
A free and vibrant society requires citizens who have been taught to wrestle with questions of justice, ethical behaviour and the obligations of citizens, Downey continued. “The Catholic intellectual tradition, (under) which we operate here, makes such conversations possible, thereby enabling our graduates to be informed and courageous participants in the increasing complex policy deliberations that an uncertain world and a vigorous democracy demand.”
This process of learning and vigorous debate will be enhanced by the improved facilities, other speakers noted. “This is another example of how STM truly is offering more,” said Ashley Smith, chair of the college’s board of governors.
“The design of the student space reflects the college’s commitment to students and the community,” added fourth-year student Brent Kobes, a member of the STM student union. “It is keeping students at the centre of our college.”
The addition enhances student access to the unique collections in STM’s library, while providing additional research and study space. The renovation has also improved energy efficiency and accessibility in the building.
A 50-year-old air-handling unit, cold winter drafts and lack of an elevator to serve all floors had previously posed mounting challenges for the college.
“We knew that to increase our energy efficiency and solve environmental challenges we needed to replace the aging air-handling unit and construct a new north entrance foyer,” said Derrin Raffey, CFO and Director of Administration, in a media release about the project. “Building an elevator to serve all floors of the college and provide access for all persons, has also been a longtime goal.”
Recognized as a Canada 150 initiative, the North Building Renewal Project grand opening included messages of congratulations and support from special guests Lyndon Linklater of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner; Kevin Doherty, provincial minister of advanced education; University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff; and Peta Bonham-Smith, Dean of Arts and Science at the U of S.
Linklater pointed to the STM Treaty Plaque on display at the grand opening as a sign of hope and reconciliation. “The treaty we made was with the newcomers and God our creator,” he said. “The treaty we made was to share the land and to live in peace and harmony with each other and work together to build a new country.”
Speaking on behalf of the provincial government, Doherty spoke of the collaboration between the college, the university, donors, faculty members, students and both the provincial and the federal government in bringing about the project. “This is all for one purpose: to continue to strive to make post-secondary education better for students — not just those students who are here today, but those who are here tomorrow.”
Navdeep Bains, federal minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development also sent a message, read at the opening celebration: “This once-in-a-generation investment by the Government of Canada ensures students, professors and researchers will work in state-of-the-art facilities that advance the country’s best research. They will collaborate in specially designed spaces that support lifelong learning and skills training,” he stated.
Founded in 1936 by the Congregation of St. Basil (the Basilian Fathers), STM offers some 230 arts and science credit courses in 14 areas of study. Approximately 4,500 University of Saskatchewan students are enrolled in STM courses.
During the grand opening, university President Peter Stoicheff and U of S Dean of Arts and Science Peta Bonham-Smith both expressed appreciation for the presence of STM on campus.
Stoicheff pointed to STM’s leadership in reconciliation with indigenous peoples, in the humanities and social sciences, and in environmental sustainability — all part of the university’s mission and vision.
“I am glad we have such a strong relationship, such a strong partnership,” said Stoicheff. “It is wonderful to have a federated Catholic college on this campus. It is a sign of the diversity of this campus to have such a strong, such a vocal college, that is immersed in a very articulate way in the social justice issues of the day.”
Prayer at the celebration was led by Michael MacLean of STM Campus Ministry, who expressed a hope that the diocese’s newly appointed Bishop Mark Hagemoen would soon be able to visit and provide his blessing.