“It’s what this place has always been about.”
The deeply rooted sense of community and shared values that are the Tricolor threads linking successive generations of students to one another and to their alma mater are as much a part of Queen’s as Grant Hall, Oil Thighs, and the Bands.
Whoever observed that there are two certainties in life – taxes and death – got it wrong. There are three certainties in life. Change should be added to the list.
We live in a fast-paced world. For better and worse, change happens at a dizzying, at times bewildering speed nowadays. No place, no one, and no institution is immune from change. Certainly not Queen’s.
Then-Chancellor Agnes Benidickson, BA’41, LLD’79, remarked on this in her Introduction to the book the University published in 1991 to commemorate its 150th anniversary.
She wrote, “Conceived at a time when continental railroads, telephones, electric lights, and air travels seemed the stuff of fantasy, Queen’s grew to maturity alongside the nation it has served so well. As the world changed, so did the institution.”
Twenty years on, Benidickson’s words still have an undeniable ring of truth to them. If anything, the pace of life has only accelerated. Queen’s continues to forge ahead. Nostalgia is no substitute for innovation and progress. New buildings, including the Stauffer Library, the Bioscience Complex, Chernoff Hall, the Queen’s Centre, and the new School of Medicine building have risen. Some older buildings, such as Gordon Hall and Richardson Hall, have been renovated and given new leases on life. Three principals, two chancellors, and faculty and staff have come and gone, as have the more than 60,000 new graduates who have earned their degrees and gone out into the world.
Yes, Queen’s has changed and so, too, have the faces on campus. However, one of this University’s enduring strengths and what makes it a special place has always been the sense that some aspects of campus life don’t change all that much from year to year, or even from generation to generation. That’s the case with the limestone buildings. Solid, grey, and ivy-clad, their sheer bulk is reassuring. It has an air of permanence. Grant Hall was there for our grandparents, and chances are that it will still be there for our grandchildren.
But more than bricks and mortar, stained glass and steel, what makes Queen’s special – unique even – is its sense of community.
The pressures on today’s students are different and far more intense than ever before.
Queen’s has always been a “residential school.” The vast majority of first-year students live in residence. In second year they move to off-campus houses and apartments, and there they usually remain until they graduate. But wherever they reside, the campus and the campus community remain the focal point of student life. It has always been that way.
The Class of 2015 arrived at Queen’s this fall more than 4,000 strong. Most of these spirited young people are 17 or 18 years of age. Born in 1992 or 1993, they’ve never known a world without the Internet, iPods, cell phones, the threat of terrorist attacks, or the perils of climate change. They are more tech savvy, globally minded, and job-minded than their parents’ or grandparents’ generations ever were. Yet in many ways today’s students are no different from their forebears.
This isn’t to suggest that the campus experience is constant and unchanging. Not at all. The pressures on today’s students are different and far more intense than ever before. The cost of a post-secondary education, always an issue, has become a preoccupation for many of them and for their families. So has dealing with the expectations to do well and to earn a spot in grad school or to land a decent job after graduation.
However, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find that for all their differences Queen’s students today have much in common with Queen’s students of 20 years ago, in 1991, or even a half-century ago. The Review interviewed three randomly selected alumni from the Class of 1965 and some members of the Class of 2015. We talked with them about how and why they came to be at Queen’s. We also asked them about their hopes, fears, and dreams as students.
Not surprisingly, we found a common thread: the Queen’s experience has been and remains rooted in a strong sense of community – exceptional people who learn, interact, and grow in a uniquely supportive environment. Beyond that, this mini-survey confirmed something we already knew: the members of that broad, bright, articulate, increasingly diverse body known as “the Queen’s family” are as different as snowflakes.