Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
President and Vice Chancellor, Assumption University
July 8, 2013
When the University of Windsor’s President and Vice Chancellor, Dr. Alan Wildeman unveiled the new anniversary logo, he pointed out that the logo’s shield represents a stylized version of UWindsor’s coat of arms from 1963, which uses symbols originally taken from its predecessor Assumption College, founded in 1857. Dr. Wildeman explained that the fleur-de-lis is symbolic of the French-Canadian heritage of Windsor-Essex as well as the Basilian order. The lily is a heraldry icon representing religious tradition, and the maple leaf embodies Canadian pride. The five areas of blue created in the negative space around the “W” represent each of the University’s founding colleges; Assumption, Essex, Iona, Canterbury and Holy Redeemer. I have never seen a logo so reflective and evocative as this one is. Nor have I seen one that summarizes beautifully the roots of this great university.
The Catholic Church founded the first universities in the West and possesses a venerable and dynamic tradition of scholarship. Catholic universities from their earliest moments have taught both important non-Catholic thinkers and representatives from its own tradition of learning, now nearly 2000 years old. Assumption University is the oldest Catholic university in English Canada. It is at the origin, the core and the heart of the University of Windsor. We cannot forget the rich history of Assumption University.
In 1784 the Jesuits expanded the mission they had founded in Detroit in 1728 to include the south shore of the Detroit River. The Hurons gave the Jesuits the land for the new mission at La Pointe de Montreal, near the present Ambassador Bridge that hovers over us. In 1767 the mission, which served both the French settlers and the native people, was granted a new status, and the first parish in Canada west of Montreal, Assumption Parish, was erected. Nineteen years later in 1786 two schools, one for girls and one for boys, were begun at Assumption Parish.
Later that year, the Jesuits left Assumption and relinquished control of the College to the diocese. Father Joseph Malbos C.S.B., the first Basilian president of the new College, succeeded the Jesuits but stayed for only one year. The year of Father Malbos’s presidency was most significant for the College since he had the foresight to have the College incorporated by an Act of the Parliament of Upper Canada, which received Royal Assent, August 16, 1858. The Act of Incorporation provided an anchor of stability for the fledgling College as Benedictines, Jesuits and diocesan clergy, successively, assumed direction of the College over the next twelve years.
In 1868, Bishop John Walsh D.D., second bishop of the diocese of London, Ontario invited the Basilian Fathers to assume control of Assumption College. In 1870, Father Dennis O’Connor C.S.B., who later became Bishop of London and Archbishop of Toronto, became president. With Father O’Connor were six other Basilian priests and four scholastics (seminarians).
The new Basilian community immediately began planning for a larger and more permanent structure for the College. Construction of the main building that stands today was begun in 1883, with the Chapel wing completed in 1908.
On July 1, 1953 through an Act of the Ontario Legislature, Assumption College received its own university powers and ended the affiliation with the University of Western Ontario begun in 1919. The following year Assumption College was admitted to full membership in the National Conference of Canadian Universities and Colleges; the University Matriculation Board of Ontario; and the Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth.
In 1956 the College changed its name to Assumption University of Windsor by an Act of the Ontario Legislature. The new University accepted the non-denominational Essex College, incorporated in 1954, as an affiliated college.
In the 1960’s, the increasing demands for higher education necessitated a further restructuring of the University. An Act of the Legislature of the Province of Ontario incorporated the University of Windsor on December 19, 1962. The new non-denominational University included Assumption University as a federated member holding in abeyance its degree granting powers save for the Faculty of Theology. The facilities and teaching faculty of Assumption University were integrated into the University of Windsor.
The development of a non-denominational provincial university out of an historic Roman Catholic university was unprecedented. Today Assumption University remains the only university federated with the University of Windsor. Canterbury College and Iona College continue in their affiliated status. One could say that Assumption University has experienced many assumptions over its long history… having been “assumed” into new realities that its founders never imagined.
Today many ask: what is Assumption University? In 2007, Assumption University celebrated its sesquicentennial. While celebrating its past achievements the University looks forward to building upon the rich theological, cultural and inter-disciplinary endeavours that constitute its distinguished history. The service to Church and society, locally, nationally and internationally that characterizes Assumption University will continue in new and creative ventures responding to current needs and forging new frontiers in education. Our relationship with the university community and with Catholic School Boards is key to our future.
Our efforts at Assumption University today are inspired by the vision of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman who dreamed of establishing a Catholic university in which theology, the arts and sciences would all be taught in dialogue with one another. This is the true meaning of “universitas” – a meeting place, a crossroads, an important bridge to the world around us. The core values of the founders of the Basilian Fathers are goodness, discipline and knowledge. These three values recall for us the importance of the education of the whole person in the Catholic and Basilian approach and remind us not to rely solely on our own efforts, but humbly to ask God, the source of all good gifts, to teach us and guide us.
Ad multos annos, University of Windsor! Never forget your roots! They remain strong and continue to produce much fruit for Canada and far beyond!
Rev. Thomas Rosica, CSB,
President and Vice Chancellor