Centennial celebrations officially kick off

Monday was the official launch of Wilfrid Laurier University’s year-long celebration of its centennial including events in the Concourse for students and Turret for faculty and staff.

The events of the year to come were introduced, as were centennial-specific initiatives, a centennial website and the massive plastic banners that appeared on campus buildings Saturday morning.

Along with more centennial decorations in the months to come, the campus will see a new statue of the university’s namesake, there are lecture series scheduled and Laurier’s history will be celebrated in a play written by English faculty member Leslie O’Dell and a commemorative book written by history department professor Andrew Thompson. The centennial year will be wrapped up with an opera concert gala October 30, 2011 featuring renowned Laurier music graduate, soprano Jane Archibald.

“I think we need to celebrate more, what this does is recognize tremendous achievement and history and involvement and commitment and community,” said David McMurray, VP of student affairs at the event in the Turret. He pointed to the significance of drawing attention from beyond Laurier’s community to the university’s hundredth birthday. “I think Laurier needs to have a stronger outward identity to the community because from my perspective I think there’s a lot to be said of the qualities of the people who are here and the students who graduate.”

McMurray discussed the 100 full entrance scholarships that are being implemented this year which incoming students can apply for and pointed to the volunteer challenge put forward encouraging students and others from Laurier to commit to 100 hours of volunteering before Oct. 30 2011.

He listed civic engagement as among the “quintessential qualities of a Laurier graduate” and an important component of the university’s identity. “We need to bundle and package that identity.”

Tom Buckley, assistant VP of academic services at Laurier, expressed a similar sentiment around Laurier’s identity. “We’re pretty modest as an institution,” he said. “There’s some really cool stuff going on here and hopefully things like this will help shake us out of that modesty.”

“Some might argue it’s symbolic,” he shrugged, adding that this year provides an opportunity to examine Laurier’s past and look forward.

Laurier president Max Blouw spoke to those assembled in the Turret, emphasizing that the university has qualities that set it apart from its counterparts, qualities that will be showcased and promoted in the coming year.

“This increasing focus on areas that define our excellence is welcome and will enable the university to carve for itself a clear niche among other Ontario and Canadian universities,” Blouw said. “Our time has arrived and the next century is one of wonderful potential and possibility.”

After, he echoed what others had said about perceived modesty on the university’s part. “I think that Laurier has been a bit shy about trumpeting just how good it is,” he said. “We’re going to change that this year and it’s an opportunity that’s been provided by our birthday but we would have been doing it anyway.”