What’s In A Name

by Dr. Gerry Turcotte, President, St. Mary’s University

“A good name is better than precious ointment.” ~ Ecclesiastes 17: 5

St. Mary’s University in Calgary Alberta recently received approval from the Premier of Alberta to drop the word ‘College’ from its name! This is long-awaited good news, many years in the making, and on Tuesday 25 November we held a special ceremony to make the change official. In the process we also launched our first Report to the Community, a new website, and unveiled our brand new Coat of Arms, recently awarded by the Chief Herald of Canada.

For readers of this column, and for long-standing supporters of St. Mary’s who have followed our story for the last 29 years, you will understand what a significant event this is, even though, in many other ways, it should go without mention. By this I mean that the shift from ‘University College’ to ‘University’ changes very little in terms of our institution and what we do. St. Mary’s is already a fully accredited Catholic university, which provides affordable, quality university degrees, within the Campus Alberta system. Since we are not a college, the term has often left people confused. The change addresses this inaccuracy.

I can certainly say that few news items have generated as much instant and delighted response from our students, parents, staff and faculty as the announcement of this change. Clearly it was long awaited. For St. Mary’s, it is further evidence of the unique role we play within the Alberta post-secondary system. It will add to the interest and support of a university that is quite possibly the fastest growing of the 26 post-secondary institutions in Alberta, with an increase in student enrolments in the last two years alone of over 37%! These numbers are staggering and unmatched anywhere. Why is this so?

In my mind these statistics show that St. Mary’s is finally being recognized as the dynamic, student-focused institution it has always been. Our applications trended at over 33% this year alone, and we know that 40% of the students who applied to come here do so through word of mouth. This is yet another testimonial of the quality of the educational experience here, but also the sense of satisfaction that our students experience at St. Mary’s. This inevitably translates into significant student involvement in the daily life of the university; it results in close to 25% of our students volunteering in some capacity, in part, I think, because it is valued as what St. Mary’s does. Our university helps students develop the whole person: mind, body and spirit. It teaches students to look out for others, and to think about the big picture, and not just to focus on the self. In this way, then, we are changing only one small part of a bigger name. St. Mary’s University is, and will always be, a name of which to be proud.