St. Thomas University (STU) is jointly a public and Roman Catholic liberal arts university located in Fredericton. It offers degrees exclusively at the undergraduate level for approximately 2,500 students in the liberal arts, humanities, journalism, education, and social work.
The origin of St. Thomas University dates back to 1860 when James Rogers, the newly appointed Bishop of Chatham, founded St Michael’s Academy. Bishop Rogers’s successor Bishop Thomas F. Barry, Bishop of Chatham, invited the Basilian Fathers of Toronto to assume charge of St Michael’s, an institution in Chatham, providing education for boys at the secondary and junior college levels. The Basilians agreed to do so in 1910, insisting on changing the academy’s name to St Thomas College so as to avoid confusion with their St Michael’s College in Toronto. The chancellor of the college remained the Bishop of Chatham.
The Basilian Fathers remained at St. Thomas until 1923. That year Bishop Patrice Chiasson, an Acadian who had succeeded Bishop Barry in 1920 as bishop of Chatham, managed with the help of a few priests to keep the college operating. From 1910 until 1934, St. Thomas College retained its original status as a High School and Junior College. It became a degree-granting institution upon receipt of a University Charter on March 9, 1934, at which time the provincial legislature of New Brunswick enacted the following:
“St. Thomas College shall be held, and taken, and is hereby declared to be a University with all and every power of such an institution, and the Board of Governors thereof shall have full power and authority to confer upon properly qualified persons the degree of Bachelor, Master, and Doctor in the several arts and faculties in the manner and upon the conditions which may be ordered by the Board of Governors.”
In 1938, Chiasson, with the permission of the Vatican, transferred the See of the Diocese from English-speaking Chatham to French-speaking Bathurst, which caused considerable concern among St Thomas’s supporters in Chatham. In 1959, after six years of secret negotiations, the predominantly English-speaking section of Northumberland County, including within its territorial limits Chatham and St. Thomas College, was transferred from the Diocese of Bathurst to the Diocese of Saint John, making Alfred Leverman, Bishop of Saint John since 1953, St. Thomas’s new chancellor.
In 1953, St Thomas granted its first honorary degree to Lord Beaverbrook, a keen supporter of the college. The St Thomas graduating class of 1953 made his lordship an honorary member of their class.
In 1960, an act of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick changed the name of St. Thomas College to St. Thomas University, reflecting its expanded departments. The following year, the high school courses were eliminated from the curriculum.