Message to Community – Passing of Brian Mulroney

Photo of Brian Mulroney

I was saddened to learn of the passing of the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister and one of St. Thomas University’s most distinguished alumni.  
Among his many accomplishments and attributes, Mulroney was known to St. Thomas as a generous, kind, and inspiring person. During his visits “back” to the St. Thomas campus, he was quick to connect with the community here and to share our STU pride.  
Like many former and current students, he recalled a 'young Brian Mulroney’ finding St. Thomas College, as it was at the time, at the right time in his life. He wrote that STU was not for the children of the privileged or wealthy but was a school available to many. Even so, it was not without some sacrifice that his parents could afford to send him to study at this small school in Chatham. He was on his own for the first time, responsible for his well-being, and in his own words, as he often told the story of his early days at St. Thomas, he was terribly homesick at the beginning.


photo of young brian mulroney

From STU Student to Prime Minister of Canada, 1984-1993

His biography would become well known. Mulroney graduated from St. Thomas College in 1955, then St. Francis Xavier University, and Université Laval. He practiced law in Montreal and was president of the Iron Ore Company of Canada before becoming leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and leader of the official opposition in the House of Commons. 

In 1984, Mulroney led the Conservatives to the largest election victory in Canadian history and was re-elected with a majority government four years later becoming the first prime minister in 35 years to win successive majority governments. His government introduced the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Canada-U.S. Acid Rain Treaty.  
Mulroney also served as co-chair of the United Nations World Summit for Children and his government played a leading role in the campaign against apartheid in South Africa and the creation of Le Sommet de la Francophonie. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Grand Officer of the Ordre National du Québec, and for his leadership in matters affecting their nations, he received the highest civilian recognition from Haiti, Ukraine, Japan, South Africa, and France. 

Photo of Brian Mulroney getting a degree at STUSt. Thomas University Honorary Degree, 2018

In 2018, St. Thomas University awarded an honorary degree to Brian Mulroney for his noteworthy record of economic, environmental, and international accomplishments. At the same Convocation ceremony, his wife, Mila Mulroney, was awarded an honorary degree for her role as a prominent and effective leader of charitable causes for over three decades. 
During his address to the graduating class, Mulroney reflected on lessons from his time as a St. Thomas student many years ago and encouraged graduates to use their opportunities to lead.
“I learned at St. Thomas that failure was not an option. Life is a mix of challenges from which no one emerges unscathed. Defeat is not something to fear, but surrender is something to reject. Never has it ever occurred to me to quit at any time in my life,” he said.
“When I left college, as you are about to do, to head to the big city to conquer the world, or so we hoped, I had no money, no connections, and no influence. But I had two things: a college degree and the values that had been implanted into us by superb faculty and university leaders. And as I look at you today, I can tell that at St. Thomas University, you have had the best."

“As I look at this impressive graduating class, I see hope for the future in this explosive and dangerous world. I also see inspiration. The torch truly has been passed. You have been blessed with a degree from this great university and you are our new generation of leaders.”

photo of mila and brian mulroney

Naming of Brian Mulroney Hall, 2002

Mulroney was a student at St. Thomas College from 1953 to 1955. He graduated after completing his high school program in Chatham, NB.  
In 2002, the University named its then-newest building on campus in his honour. Brian Mulroney Hall continues to be home to the University’s two professional programs, undergraduate classes, faculty offices, a board room, and more.  
St. Thomas has always been proud to call Brian Mulroney one of our own—we remain impressed by his tenacity in pursuing education and professional success, grateful for his work on behalf of Canadians during his time in office, inspired by his journey from STU student to world leader, and humbled by his friendship and the time and attention he has given to our university over the years.   
As we mourn his loss, our thoughts are with Mila, their children, grandchildren, and extended family.  

Dr. Nauman Farooqi
President and Vice-Chancellor