Remembrance Day activities have taken on an extra special meaning this year at Memorial University. That's because 2005 has been officially designated by the federal government as the Year of the Veteran. The Year of the Veteran holds special significance for an institution that was built as a living memorial to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who died during the First World War. This year also marks the 80th anniversary of the opening of Memorial University College in 1925.
To commemorate Remembrance Day 2005, in St. John's the university will hold its annual Ceremony of Remembrance for faculty, staff and students on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 11 a.m. in the Reid Theatre of the Arts and Administration Building on the St. John's campus.
“The Ceremony of Remembrance will involve members of the Royal Canadian Legion and Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band, as well as university faculty, staff, alumni and students,” said Victoria Collins, director of the Division of Marketing and Communications, the unit responsible for organizing the ceremony. “A dramatic performance excerpted from the Beothuck Street Players' production of Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Toward the Somme will be a highlight of the event. There are also plans to Webcast the ceremony which will allow Internet users from anywhere in the world to watch the event on their computer. The ceremony will not only pay tribute to those who fought in Great Wars but will also honour all those who serve today by inviting the 200 or so university students currently serving in the armed forces and reserves to attend the event.”
In addition, she noted that this year members of the university community - as well as the general public - are being urged to log onto a special online Diary of Remembrance which is located on Memorial's Web site. Active from Nov. 1-11, the special Web site allows people to express their thoughts and reflections about Remembrance Day and the Year of the Veteran. Comments and reflections can be posted on www.mun.ca/memorial/remembers.php. Each day one person who posts a message will receive a Year of the Veteran satchel, supplied by the federal department of Veteran's Affairs.
The history of Memorial University stretches back nearly 90 years to January 1919 when Levi Curtis, a Methodist superintendent, and Vincent Burke, his Roman Catholic counterpart, sponsored a resolution of the Patriotic Association urging government to build a training school as a memorial to those who died during the Great War. Both men later became founding trustees of Memorial University College which was opened on Sept. 15, 1925.
Officials thought a post-secondary institution would benefit Newfoundland and maintain the ideals that were fought for during the war. The college was later rededicated to also encompass the province's war dead of the Second World War. Three hundred and ten former students of Memorial University College offered themselves for active service in the Second World War. Thirty of these students lost their lives. Their names are recorded in the front of the University Calendar each year.
Since then, ceremonies of remembrance have been held to mark the university's foundations and to pay respect to those who have fought in other wars. “I think it is extra special that Memorial continues to do these ceremonies,” said Elizabeth Casey, provincial command secretary with the Royal Canadian Legion. Ms Casey served in the military, and is a member of the Legion and an alumna of Memorial. “The Legion has strong ties to Memorial's ceremonies. We have a presence there every year. I think the university's ceremony is not only for those who came before us but it also helps educate young people on Memorial's significance.
“This year is an emotional one and it's a period of time when we try to remember and not forget the sacrifices that veterans of all ages have paid on our behalf,” Ms Casey said. “We have a whole year to pay homage and pay respect to veterans who fought in all the wars.”
To reach out to the university community - especially students - and encourage everybody to attend this year's Ceremony of Remembrance, a display booth will be set up in the University Centre several days prior to the ceremony to distribute promotional material on the Year of the Veteran.
On Nov. 11 the university will be closed and President Axel Meisen will participate in the St. John's Remembrance Day ceremonies which are held at the downtown War Memorial.
The annual Remembrance Day Presentation at Grenfell College in Corner Brook will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 12:30 p.m. in LC-301. The title this year is “The Life that I Have Is Yours,” taken from a short poem (to be included in the presentation) that was the cipher of Violette Szabo, an undercover agent for the Allies, operating in the Second World War (she was half French, half English). She was captured and tortured by the Gestapo, resisted giving them any information, and was executed by firing squad at Ravensbruck concentration camp for women only weeks before the war came to an end. Devised by Dr. David Freeman, this presentation in words and music on war and sacrifice will be performed by Grenfell students, staff and faculty.
The Marine Institute will hold its Remembrance Day ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 12 p.m. at the Merchant Marine Memorial situated on Ridge Road. Students, faculty, staff are invited to join in this special event to commemorate the armed and merchant navy forces that participated in the world wars. Students from the institute's nautical science and marine engineering programs will participate in the ceremony along with naval cadets and officers with the Department of National Defence detachment (St. John's).
Earlier this year, Memorial University's School of Music commissioned a major new work for concert band from Newfoundland composer Michael Snelgrove. The work, titled The Pensive Veteran, debuted on March 31 at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall.