Like its history, the emblems of UNB — its seal and coat of arms or crest — have followed a somewhat circuitous path.
Seal is the oldest emblem
The original seal of UNB, dating back to 1800 when the institution received its provincial charter as the College of New Brunswick, continued in use during the King’s College years, 1829-59.
In 1861, after an act of the Legislature transformed the institution into the University of New Brunswick in 1859, a senate-appointed committee took three years to come up with a new design. It first appeared on the 1880-81 academic calendar. This seal introduced UNB’s motto, Sapere Aude, variously translated as “Dare to discern,” “Dare to know,” and, preferred by UNB, “Dare to be wise.” The expression, first used by the Roman poet Horace and popularized by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant just about the time the province of New Brunswick was being formed, is, according to Wikipedia, a “common” motto for universities and other institutions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapere_aude
More than 100 years later, then-president Colin B. Mackay, who had a keen sense of history and heritage, observing that the original seal may have been one of the oldest university seals in Canada, recommended that it once again be used as the official seal of UNB. It was, after some refinements by Rudolph Ruzicka who had designed seals for a number of other universities, including Harvard.
The Latin on the rim states it is the seal of the University of New Brunswick. The Biblical inscription on the left-hand page of the open book is in Hebrew; the right-hand, in Greek, is identical. “In the Beginning God Created the Heavens and the Earth…and the Spirit of God moved upon the Face of the Earth.”
The seal appears on all official UNB documents, including diplomas, contracts and other legal documents.
The coat of arms: not as old as you may think
Though the rumour that UNB at one time stole a design from another university to use as its coat of arms has never been proven, it is true that UNB’s predecessor institution, King’s College, adopted the royal coat of arms from the Royal Gazette. This no doubt seemed appropriate at the time, considering that the university lands were secured by payment of a nominal “quit rent” to the Crown.
The matter of a proper coat of arms was first officially broached by then-business manager Beverley Macaulay at a UNB senate meeting in May 1953. He reported that the university had never received a grant of arms and proposed to pursue it. The project was heartily endorsed and a committee was formed to assist Dr. Macaulay in finalizing the design. After several false starts, “the Armorial Bearings prepared by the College of Heralds” in England at the request of Lord Beaverbrook’s granddaughter Lady Jean Campbell were approved in May 1956.
Distinguished history professor and long-time UNB administrator Alfred Bailey took credit for including beavers in the crest instead of the maple leaves that were originally proposed. “You’ve got to have beavers for Beaverbrook,” he explained. The book, carrying UNB’s motto, represents knowledge and education; the ship is from the province’s coat of arms. The UNB flag, also approved in 1956, bears the coat of arms on a field of red and black.
In 1996, the UNB coat of arms was “repatriated” at a ceremony at Rideau Hall. Governor General Romeo LeBlanc presided over the registration of the symbol with the Canadian Heraldic Authority while 250 proud UNB alumni looked on.