Will Cornwall ever have a university? 

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Dear Editor,

In the January 7th edition of the Seaway News you published a photo provided by Ian Bowering of the Cornwall Community Museum, preserved among other archival material at the museum. In fact, the Museum has been hosting a display featuring historic documents of the campus, during the month of January. This pleases me tremendously, as I know that whatever artifacts we were able to retrieve lie safely at the museum. I hope that such displays will continue in years to come. Good stuff, Ian.

The photo, taken at the former WM-WYCA, shows the make-shift library where students could do research. In 1971, a first group of full-time students was admitted to the B.A. program.

Before landing at the "W" in 1970, my husband Donat and I agreed to have the university offices in our Cornwall home: registrar, bookstore, counselling services, name it. Through astute political maneouvering, the late Nick Kaneb helped to set up our first set of summer university courses. However, there was no place to go, so, the only choice was our home with four children ranging from 3 - 13 years. This went on for two years, with registration growing in leaps and bounds. The courses were taught at General Vanier Secondary School. Actually, we lived a unique Canadian experience.

People often question me on the possibility of having a university in Cornwall. How I wish! The problem was that we were never a chartered university campus, but a satellite. That is a no-no.

Former mayor, the Honourable Ed Lumley tried to rectify this, by bringing a group of us by plane to North Bay to see the facilities at Nipissing University College. In 1972, we, in Cornwall  and Nipissing were neck-to-neck in terms of registrations; they had nineteen full-time staff, we were only two, myself and a secretary. Ed appointed a committee headed by Msgr. Rudy Villeneuve  to correct this discrepancy and the administrative structure imposed on us. Other high-powered committees followed. But many rounds and years of negotiations did not succeed in changing our satellite status. Whoever had the money made the rules! Ed is now Chancellor at the University of Windsor. They recognized talent when they saw it.

However, the faculty deans, particularly in Arts and Education were most helpful, and through their cooperation, I was able to establish further courses which led to fascinating numbers during the 25 year campus existence: courses offered - 18,475; students - 4,971; graduates - 2006.

There were also cultural events: concerts, including the famous Carmina Burana of Carl Orff, theatre, major conferences, - one on women’s issues, featuring the Honourable Judy Erola and Maureen McTeer. Organizing such events brought me great joy and satisfaction. I tried to bring the best of what I could to Cornwall, but always on a shoe-string.

Through the years, I worked with teachers, nurses, full-time students, bankers, through the Institute of Canadian Bankers, and many who simply wished to enrich their lives through knowledge. When I decided to leave the university in 1993, we were still only two full-time staff. I made a strong plea to be replaced by someone new. But, it did not happen.

So, thanks Ian for the memories, and kudos to the many volunteers who helped through the years, especially Edith Stiles. Many alumni have brightened my days with cards, exciting comments of advancement in their careers, and meaningful changes in their lives. 

But there were hurts, alas!

Will Cornwall ever have a university? 

The benefits would be enormous. 

Jeannine Roy-Poirier, Ph.D.

Cornwall Campus coordinator, (1968-1993)

University of Ottawa

Organizations: Nipissing University College, Dear Editor, Seaway News Cornwall Community Museum WM-WYCA General Vanier Secondary School University of Windsor University of Ottawa

Geographic location: Cornwall, North Bay

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