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Legacy of Memorial's WW100 commemoration program

By Nora Daly

Shortly after the First World War, Memorial University College was established as a living memorial so that “…in freedom of learning their cause and sacrifice may not be forgotten.”

It is a unique origin among universities in North America, and one incoming students are reminded of when they attend matriculation each semester.

Living Memorial Fund

On the centenary of the start of the First World War, the university created the WW100 Commemoration Program, designed to encourage and empower the university community during the 2014-19 centenary period.

Faculty, students and staff were encouraged to develop academic, commemorative or archival/library projects.

Seventy grants were awarded through the Living Memorial Fund over the five-year program. Approximately $285,000 was awarded and was used to leverage almost $760,000 in additional funds.

Projects extended across the spectrum of university activities and emanated from all major university campuses.

What follows are a select sample of undertakings over the commemoration period. A full list of funded projects can be found here.


Alumna Stephanie Tucker and her Harlow Campus classmates spontaneously recorded a moving video during a visit to Beaumont-Hamel.

She later presented at a WW100 symposium.


The symposium, Before Beaumont-Hamel there was Gallipoli, and a number of other events occurred during 2015 that recognized the Turkish and Newfoundland shared experience at Gallipoli.

Poppy painting by Turkish artist Hikmet Çetinkaya
Poppy painting by Turkish artist Hikmet Çetinkaya

During the summer, the Queen Elizabeth II Library hosted an art exhibit featuring the work of Turkish artist Hikmet Çetinkaya.

He generously donated the largest painting in the series to Government House and the second largest to Memorial University.

Later in the year, the Turkish ambassador attended Memorial’s Ceremony of Remembrance in November and laid a memorial wreath.


In June, Princess Anne, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’s colonel-in-chief, officially dedicated the Danger Tree sculpture at Grenfell Campus.

The Danger Tree, Grenfell Campus
The Danger Tree sculpture at Grenfell Campus.
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

Created by sculptor Morgan MacDonald, the large bronze sculpture is a powerful representation of the tree that came to symbolize not only the tragic losses, but also the determination that defined the advance of the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, 1916.

Three years later, the bronze sculpture was completed with the addition of a sculpture of Pte. Hugh Walter McWhirter, the first solider from the First Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment killed in combat in the First World War.


The Conservation Corps of Newfoundland and Labrador hired more than 100 youth in summer 2016.

A research element on the First World War was incorporated into each of the program participant’s job descriptions. Throughout the summer, youth were required to conduct research on the history of their community and ancestors.

The best stories were selected for a film project and some of the youth were interviewed.

The Conservation Coprs of Newfoundland and Labrador staff travelled throughout the province and collected stories in Conne River, Lewisporte, St. Alban’s, Come By Chance, Mount Pearl and more.


In early 2018, the Peace by Piece: Quilted Memories of Newfoundland in the Great War exhibit was displayed in the Queen Elizabeth II Library.

Some of the quilts from the Peace by Piece exhibit.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The exhibit was a project of the Cabot Quilters’ Guild. The guild invited quilters to submit quilt blocks, which were then made into quilts. More than 250 quilt blocks on 17 quilts share the stories of Newfoundlanders who fought in the First World War.

The material they depict ranges from the personal to the political. The guild later donated the quilts to the university and are now on permanent display in buildings on all Memorial campuses.


The capstone of the WW100 program was the Living Memorial Conference that took place in June 2019.

Most of the presentations were overviews of projects funded through the WW100 program. Two high-profile Canadian military historians were keynote speakers: Dr. Tim Cook, First World War historian, Canadian War Museum; and Dr. Dean Oliver, director of research, Canadian Museum of History.

The conference was a great success and in all ways exceeded expectations, with one attendee saying, “If there was another related conference I would sign up in a flash,” while another noted, “My interest has been sparked to read up more on the First World War.”

Looking forward

The university is a living memorial, so how will the university become a living memorial for the 21st century?

One answer is a Veterans’ Service Program. The program will address some of the unique challenges facing serving members and veterans.

Over the coming year, the university will acquire and analyze demographic data to determine the current veteran and military population at Memorial, conduct stakeholder engagement to learn more about these students’ support needs and develop a prior learning assessment review process to consider the course equivalencies for military training.

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