Hats off to 100 years
by Claire Miglionico
It’s weather fit for a Monday morning — foggy, rainy, and just plain ugly on Sept. 20. But today isn’t an ugly day inside Mount Royal University. Today is a day of new beginnings and celebrations of past achievements at MRU as president Dave Marshall delivers the one and only centennial address that students, staff and faculty members have been anticipating since the big “U” replaced the “C” in MRC.
At 10:10 a.m., the triple gym located in the university’s recreation centre was surprisingly empty. Was anyone going to show up to this speech?
At 10:15, groups of people started flowing in, filling the bleachers from top to the very bottom. Ten minutes later, the centre seats and bleachers on the right side of the podium were almost completely full. A group of people wearing sweaters with the centennial logo prominently displayed sat centre stage, looking enthusiastic as can be. They are the international education department, here to support international Mexican student Gustavo Banos who won last year’s competition to design the centennial logo.
Mount Royal’s students’ association executives are seen proudly walking towards their front-row seats located on the right side of the stage. An old sociology professor of mine, journalism professors who have taught me over the past few years and a few other professors are in various seats across the gym. Older ladies and gentlemen — perhaps alumni — and present students are also in attendance. One elderly couple, Ester Laidlaw and her husband, were particularly excited to celebrate the centennial with Marshall. Laidlaw’s husband was an engineering student at Mount Royal in the 1950s.
The MRU community has finally gathered to hear Marshall’s speech of the century. A flashback video, voiced- over by Marshall himself, kicks off the celebration. It depicts Mount Royal’s first students, and George W. Kerby, the school’s first president — or principal as he was called in 1911 — and the school’s evolution through the years, up to the present day.
To everyone’s amusement, Marshall bursts on the stage from behind the curtains wearing a black top hat, ancient-looking spectacles and an evening coat, impersonating his predecessor, Dr. George W. Kerby. “Dr. Marshall and I talk all the time. We get together for tea,” Marshall said, embodying Kerby to the fullest.
Later, in a post-speech interview, Marshall explained his choice to perform as Kerby. “People kept on coming up to me and saying, ‘You know, if you had different glasses and did your hair [differently] you’d look a lot like him,’ so I thought I’d have some fun today.”
Switching personas, Marshall added, “What Dr. Marshall and I really want to talk about today is Mount Royal’s centennial year and the opportunities this provides us to celebrate Mount Royal’s future.”
He started his speech off by praising Banos for his centennial logo ¬design — Banos is consequently cheered by the crowd — and then Marshall goes on to list the centennial events happening around campus, including the planting of 100 trees on campus, the Legacy of Ideas speaker series, the tasting of the Royal 100 beer in collaboration with Wild Rose Brewery, and the $25-million centennial campaign that raises funds for scholarships and funds forMRU.
Circa 1911, there were exactly 179 students attending Mount Royal. Now, 13,000 students pursue degree programs, along with 30,000 students in continuing education programs. “(Mount Royal) started with five faculty (members) and within a year or two we were up to the lofty number of 15 by 1915. Today we are close to 400,” Marshall said.
“This is a celebration of our students — past and present,” Marshall concluded.