The origin of St. Thomas University dates back to 1910. At that time, the Most Reverend Thomas F. Barry, Bishop of Chatham, invited the Basilian Fathers of Toronto to assume charge of an institution in Chatham, New Brunswick, providing education for boys at the secondary and junior college levels. The institution was called St. Thomas College.

The Basilian Fathers remained at St. Thomas until 1923. That year the school was placed under the direction of the clergy of the Diocese of Chatham. In 1938, the Diocese of Chatham became the Diocese of Bathurst. In 1959, a section of Northumberland County, including within its territorial limits St. Thomas College, was transferred from the Diocese of Bathurst to the Diocese of Saint John.

Degree Granting Institution

From 1910 until 1934, St. Thomas College retained its original status as a High School and Junior College. It became a degree-granting institution upon receipt of a University Charter on March 9, 1934, at which time the provincial legislature of New Brunswick enacted the following:


“St. Thomas College shall be held, and taken, and is hereby declared to be a University with all and every power of such an institution, and the Board of Governors thereof shall have full power and authority to confer upon properly qualified persons the degree of Bachelor, Master, and Doctor in the several arts and faculties in the manner and upon the conditions which may be ordered by the Board of Governors.”

St. Thomas University

In 1960, an act of the provincial legislature of New Brunswick changed the name of St. Thomas College to St. Thomas University. The following year, the high school courses were eliminated from the curriculum. In 1962, a royal commission on higher education in New Brunswick recommended that St. Thomas University enter into a federation agreement with the University of New Brunswick and relocate on the campus of the latter institution.


In 1963, an agreement was drawn up between St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick. According to this agreement, St. Thomas University continues to grant its own degrees in arts and education. The agreement further provides that St. Thomas University make regulations governing student admission to courses leading to such degrees and retain control of the content and administration of its curriculum.

Growth and Development

On September 2, 1964, St. Thomas University opened its new premises in Fredericton. Since its relocation, the University has undergone significant growth in the number of students, faculty, and facilities. From fewer than 500 students, 22 faculty and 3 buildings at that time, St. Thomas has grown to approximately 1600 students 90 full-time faculty and 10 buildings.

Expansion was well planned and St. Thomas is now nationally recognized for the beauty of its campus and the quality of its learning environment. In 1964, the institution consisted of the Administration Building (now George Martin Hall), Harrington Hall (residence), and Holy Cross House (classrooms, faculty offices and residence). Vanier Hall (residence) was added in 1965; Edmund Casey Hall (classrooms and faculty offices) in 1969; a new wing to Edmund Casey Hall in 1985; Sir James Dunn Hall (student area, classrooms) in 1994, and the J.B. O'Keefe Fitness Centre and the Forest Hill Residence in 1999. Rigby Hall was purchased by St. Thomas University in 1999 and named in honour of Harry Rigby, former Dean of Men and founder of The Thomists.

The new century saw the opening of Donald C. Duffie Hall (Admissions) and Brian Mulroney Hall (classrooms, faculty offices, and student areas) in 2001; Chatham Hall was added to the Forest Hill Residence in 2003. During that year, St. Thomas University also began leasing classroom space in a CBC broadcast facility for use by its journalism programme, a unique and beneficial arrangement. Margaret Norrie McCain Hall, an academic building consisting of a large auditorium, a two-storey student study hall, and numerous classrooms and seminar rooms, opened for students in January 2007.

In 2018, the University sold the off-campus, Forest Hill residences (Chatham Hall and Rigby Hall) to begin consolidating the residence experience at St. Thomas on campus. Renovations to both Harrington Hall and Vanier Hall introduced more modern living spaces with additional study and communal student spaces to residents. After a year of construction, Harrington Hall re-opened its doors for the 2017-2018 academic year, while Vanier's renovations were completed in the 2020-2021 academic year, re-opening for the 2021-2022 academic year. 


In the course of its history, St. Thomas University has had thirteen presidents. Listed here, with their dates of office, they are:

Very Rev. Nicholas Roche, C.S.B. 1910-1911
Very Rev. William J. Roach, C.S.B. 1911-1919
Very Rev. Frederick Meader, C.S.B. 1920-1923
Very Rev. Raymond Hawkes 1923-1927
Most. Rev. James M. Hill, D.D. 1928-1945
Very Rev. Charles V. O'Hanley 1945-1948
Very Rev. A.L. McFadden 1948-1961
Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Duffie 1961-1975
Rev. Msgr. George W. Martin 1975-1990
Dr. Daniel W. O'Brien 1990-2006

Dr. Michael Higgins 2006-2009
Mr. Dennis Cochrane 2010-2011
Prof. Dawn Russell 2011-2023
Dr. M. Nauman Farooqi 2023-