About the University of Prince Edward Island

1 History

The University of Prince Edward Island recognizes and acknowledges our location on the unceded, ancestral lands of the Mi’kmaq People, in their traditional and current territory of Mi’kma’ki.

Education is a key component of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. UPEI is committed to advancing reconciliation through higher education, and our establishment of the UPEI Faculty of Indigenous Knowledge, Education, Research, and Applied Studies in 2021 is an important step. As a community, we have started a journey of growth to realize the role we must play in promoting an understanding of Indigenous history and culture and supporting respectful relationships. Their history is our history.

The University of Prince Edward Island has a long-standing tradition of academic excellence dating back to the early 19th century, with roots in its founding institutions: Prince of Wales College (est. 1834) and Saint Dunstan’s University (est. 1855). UPEI values its heritage and proudly embodies historic symbols of SDU and PWC in positions of honour within the shield that anchors the University’s official coat of arms, and on its flag.

The Early Years

Commitment to education as a primary factor in PEI’s development can be traced to PEI’s earliest legislative council debates. Lieutenant-Governor Edmund Fanning (1786–1805) promoted the view that education was central to progress and that it should be seen as a priority, along with the enhancement of agriculture, fisheries, commerce, and population growth.

In 1820, Kent College School opened in Charlottetown, and a larger building known as the Central Academy was constructed from 1834 to 1836 near the corners of Kent Street and Weymouth Street. Central Academy provided Island youth with “educational qualification enabling them to take their place in the various professions and vocations of life with advantage to society and honour and credit to themselves.” A teacher training institution called the Normal School opened in 1856.

Central Academy was upgraded in 1860 and renamed Prince of Wales College, in honour of the visit of His Royal Highness Edward Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. In 1879, the College became co-educational, and the Normal School became part of it. In 1965, Prince of Wales College was elevated to university status.

Saint Dunstan’s University was founded by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlottetown to educate lay leaders for Catholic society and young men who wished to enter a seminary. St. Andrew’s College, which preceded SDU, was founded in 1831 under the leadership of Bishop Angus MacEachern. Saint Dunstan’s College was established in 1855 by Bishop Bernard MacDonald on the property that today serves as the UPEI campus. The College received a provincial degree-granting charter in 1917 but did not award its first bachelor’s degrees until the spring of 1941.

Starting in 1892, SDU was affiliated with Université Laval, awarding joint degrees, but following the decision to start granting its own degrees, SDU had severed its relationship with Laval by 1956. By the mid-20th century, the College had expanded into a small liberal arts university, having become co-educational in 1942.

In 1969, the Government of Prince Edward Island, under the leadership of Premier Alex B. Campbell, passed the University Act, which led to the creation of one university for the province. In September of that year, the University of Prince Edward Island welcomed its first students.

The Provincial University

The University’s Charlottetown campus reflects the character of UPEI on many levels—a complementary blend of old and new, of tradition and innovation. Original SDU buildings have been renovated tastefully to retain the integrity of design while meeting modern standards, and many new academic, administrative, and residence buildings have been integrated into the UPEI campus.

The depth of UPEI’s academic heritage is reflected in the buildings and scholarships named in honour of education pioneers and benefactors and in personal, day-to-day connections. Graduates of SDU and PWC taught at UPEI, children and grandchildren of former faculty and staff attended the University, and many families proudly continue to report multi-generational alumni connections to the institution.

The University has a long history of welcoming international students, and many graduates remain actively engaged with UPEI as part of the local community or networked through professional and collegial worldwide relationships. Alumni of UPEI, SDU, and PWC—now numbering more than 30,000—whether in Prince Edward Island, elsewhere in Canada, or abroad—maintain a close sense of connection with their University.

UPEI: Fifty Years and Beyond

In 2019, UPEI celebrated its 50th anniversary and showcased the many important developments in its academic and research programs over its five decades.

Since then, the University has continued to grow its academic programming, adding undergraduate and graduate programs, faculties, and schools to meet the ever-changing demands of industry and society. UPEI has expanded beyond the Charlottetown campus, opening the UPEI Cairo Campus in Egypt in 2018, and the Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation in St. Peters Bay, PEI in 2022.

Underlying the University’s programs and activities is a commitment to rigorous study and inquiry, belief in the value of knowledge, lifelong capacity-building, and the development of the whole person—along with a sense of community at UPEI and in its local, regional, national, and international contexts. Faculty in all disciplines produce research and scholarly works of national and international calibre while prioritizing UPEI’s well-earned reputation for high-quality teaching characterized by individual attention.

The University of Prince Edward Island is fortunate to have been served by a succession of outstanding Chancellors and Presidents/Vice-Chancellors, installed as follows:

Serving as Chancellor:

The Honourable Thane A. Campbell, CC, MA, LLD

  • May 14, 1970

Gustave Gingras, CC, MD, FRSA, LLD, FRCP(c)

  • May 12, 1974

David Macdonald Stewart, CM, CStJ, KLJ, FRSA, FHS(c), Hon LLD, Hon DBA

  • October 1, 1982

The Honourable Gordon L. Bennett, OC, BSc, MSc, LLD, DCL

  • March 9, 1985

Doris H. Anderson, OC, BA, LLD

  • October 24, 1992

Norman Webster, CM, BA, MA, DCL

  • November 2, 1996

William Andrew, Dip Eng, BEng

  • March 6, 2005

Don McDougall, BComm, MBA, LLD

  • March 30, 2014

Hon. Catherine Callbeck, CM, OPEI, LLD

  • September 29, 2018

Serving as President and Vice-Chancellor:

Ronald J. Baker, OC, BA, MA, LLD

  • May 14, 1970

Peter P. M. Meincke, BSc, MA, PhD

  • September 23, 1978

C. W. J. Eliot, CM, BA, MA, PhD, DCL

  • October 19, 1985

Elizabeth R. Epperly, BA, MA, PhD

  • October 14, 1995

Lawrence E. Heider, DVM

  • August 16, 1998 (acting)

H. Wade MacLauchlan, BBA, LLB, LLM, CM

  • October 3, 1999

Alaa S. Abd-El-Aziz, BSc, MSc, PhD

  • July 1, 2011


UPEI Calendar 2023-2024 Copyright © by University of Prince Edward Island. All Rights Reserved.

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