About StFX

History of StFX

History of StFX


St. Francis Xavier University was founded in 1853 and has a long and proud tradition as one of Canada’s oldest universities. Today, StFX is Canada’s premiere undergraduate university, consistently receiving the highest marks in Canada for academics. StFX is known for its strong spirit, its loyal alumni, its small class sizes, and its vibrant student body and residential campus experience. The strong spirit and values of StFX have been the cornerstone of the university for over 160 years. StFX is a “national university” and is unique in Canada attracting approximately 50% of its students from outside of the Atlantic region, creating a student population that reflects nearly every corner of Canada and North America, and with StFX's Coady International Institute, the world. Fun FactsStFX has alumni in 140 countries around the globe. It's their reach and influence that continues to strengthen and enrich the StFX experience.

The Early Years

During the first half of the 19th century, close to a million farmers, labourers and tradesmen came from the British Isles to the shores of Nova Scotia to seek a better life, joining the Acadians and Aboriginal peoples already settled there. In the early years, the vast majority of immigrants to the region where StFX was eventually founded were of Scottish Highland decent. In fact the primary language for the over 50% of the people in these early years was Gaelic. To this day there are Gaelic signs and a vibrant Gaelic community in the Antigonish region, along with the oldest Highland Games in the world outside Scotland. Scottish Highlanders made up 67% of the StFX constituency, while Acadians, Irish, English and Aboriginal made up the rest.

StFX was born to serve this diverse community. StFX offered the only university-level education in the region at that time and, partnered with the Roman Catholic diocese, maintained strict academic standards in order to give those who wanted the best education possible.

StFX Past and Present

Over the course of the following decades StFX flourished, expanding its curriculum and bringing the mission of service across Canada and abroad. In the 1930s, that identity was solidified with the world renowned Antigonish Movement—a program whose mandate aligned perfectly with StFX’s original principles of community outreach and service to society. In 1959, the Coady International Institute was formed, allowing those principles to be taken to all corners of the globe.

StFX is also about leadership. The unique campus environment and the StFX values social responsibility have created an atmosphere where students learn to hone their leadership skills and make a difference later in life. StFX is proud of its tradition of producing leaders in health, education, politics, academics, business, labour, and so much more.

StFX has since grown into a renowned institution that works hard to maintain the qualities it was founded on. We’ve seen numerous changes—changes in faculty, changes in the student body, changes in our academic programs. But, while most of Canada's smaller universities have either abandoned their roots or consolidated into larger institutions, we’ve vigorously maintained our autonomy, guarded our character, and upheld the same traditions of freedom and service that inspired the men and women stepping onto the eastern Nova Scotian shores a century and a half ago. At StFX, we’re excited about where we’re headed. But we also like to remember where we came from.

StFX Today

StFX continues to receive the top marks for academics in Canada, and because almost all courses are taught by full time Ph.D. professors, StFX has a distinct advantage over large urban commuter universities who use teaching assistants or grad students. The small class sizes allow for greater participation and professors who know your name.

The real StFX advantage is the student experience. Being in a university town allows students the opportunity to live and learn with students from across Canada and around the world. There is no commute home, and instead you meet new friends and gain new experiences in the strong residential campus. The highly residential campus creates the most spirited student body and our legendary X Spirit. With leading academic education which prepares students for their future, along with friendships and experiences that last a lifetime, it is no wonder StFX has the highest student satisfaction of all major universities in Canada.

In the past 15 years StFX has raised the bar further: we have taken the historic StFX values and foundation and legendary spirit and high academic standing and created an even stronger campus and university with the latest in classroom and library technology, while maintaining our historic look and feel. The most beautiful campus in Canada, StFX has invested nearly $200 million in the campus since 1996 including:

  • The Keating Centre, with two ice pads, state of the art physical fitness facilities, and rooms for conferences and events that hold up to three thousand people. The famous “X-Ring Ceremony” is held in the Keating Center, as is convocation and other major events such as the President Clinton address for the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership.
  • Governors Hall, a residence with suites and high end finishing that doubles as a hotel in summer for conferences and events on StFX campus.
  • Residence renewal, Bishops, MacIsaac, New residences: Being a residential campus, StFX has invested in several new residences and re-furbished existing residences. The legendary Bishops, for example, including Burke and Plessis, are now single room residences with fridge’s options, microwaves, and bathrooms and decor that are beautiful. Several new residences, including Sommers and Powers Hall, have also been built with the latest in technology while maintains the traditional historic exterior.
  • Another new residence is being constructed to accommodate students and ensure the high quality education and experience is matched by the world’s best residences.
  • The Science Centre, completed 7 years ago, is a state of the art facility housing our leading science program with labs and technology that allow students to fully develop their potential in the sciences.
  • The StFX Coady International Institute, a leader in the helping developing nations around the world, is housed in a new facility that utilized an existing hundred year old exterior, along with a new addition built in the old style such that it blends together. The StFX Coady International institute bring in leaders from developing nations as well as Canadian communities and train them to be a force for change. The Coady Institute has helped millions of people worldwide, and the new facility is another stunning piece of architecture. The Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Program is held in the Coady, as are numerous other programs that help improve regions around the globe.
  • The Gerald Schwartz School of Business is Canada’s most beautiful business school and fast becoming a leader in the field. This stunning new addition in 2010 is a ‘must see’ and named after a StFX alumnus and one of Canada’s leading business leaders Gerry Schwartz. The Schwartz School houses our top academic staff and all the classes for the business curriculum, including large and small classrooms to small break out rooms for studying or student group projects.
  • The Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership, officially opened in 2011 at a 700 person gala event on campus by President Bill Clinton, builds on StFX’s already strong leadership programs. Known for producing leaders in industry, health, education, politics and more, StFX has numerous leadership opportunities for students that would not be as readily available in large commuter universities. From foreign exchanges to local or on campus leadership opportunities, the McKenna Centre is a stunning new facility where worlds renowned leaders in various fields, visiting lectures and guests will come to StFX to allow students to listen and ask questions first hand to global leaders.
  • There is more to come to make StFX a standout amongst Canadian Universities and to better prepare our students to be leaders of tomorrow.