Timeless Tribute: Honouring a century of Memorial Hall | UNB
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Timeless Tribute: Honouring a century of Memorial Hall


On Sept. 8, the UNB Art Centre commemorated Memorial Hall’s 100th anniversary.

Named in memory of UNB graduates and students who fought and died during the First World War, Memorial Hall opened in 1924.

Since its opening, the hall has served as a convocation space and provided teaching and learning spaces for a variety of subjects, including science, physics, engineering and physical education. Two radio stations, CFNB and CHSR, also ran out of Memorial Hall. It now houses the UNB Art Centre and the Centre for Musical Arts.


Stephen Patterson (BA’59), a historian and professor emeritus at UNB, has had a long connection to Memorial Hall. In 1955, he enrolled in UNB’s bachelor of arts program. He vividly recalls that time.

“I took chemistry from Dr. Toole in Memorial Hall at 8:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He taught in the main auditorium using slides. The room was dimmed, and someone on the balcony ran an old-fashioned slide projector and put his notes and formulas on the screen.”

After venturing into music and drama in his second year of his BA, Stephen began creating and performing musical comedies during UNB’s winter carnival.

“I did two musicals in Mem Hall, and everyone who bought a winter carnival ticket got a ticket to one of our performances. The musicals were spoofs of Fredericton and New Brunswick, and they attracted a lot of attention in the community.”

After graduating and furthering his studies outside the province, Stephen became a faculty member and the chair of the creative arts committee. Through this role, he convinced then-UNB president James Downey (LLD'91) to purchase a grand piano for Memorial Hall. They bought one once played in a performance by Oscar Peterson.

Bao Yih Chang (MSc' 70) says that, “Memorial Hall holds one of my life’s utmost happiest memories, my wedding, which was held there on May 16, 1970. UNB Professor Dr. Norman Whitney officiated my wedding and the wedding reception took place at the Old Arts Building.

I was a poor student from Taiwan and was only able to attend UNB on an assistantship. My time at UNB, including my marriage at Memorial Hall, was a turning point in my life that led to a happy and prosperous life. I am eternally grateful for all at UNB who made it possible and will remain a UNB man always.”

Cindy Pope, (née Goucher, BA’95) recalls that, “It was 1994, I believe, and I was a BA student eager to take on the world. I had transferred from UNBSJ to UNBF, and moved off campus to truly fend for myself for the first time in my life. I was balancing university with a seven day a week commitment to a local theatre troupe. It was both exciting, and hectic. I needed to find a class that wasn’t all about essays and reading, but rather creative and experiential.

I joined a theatre class where I was cast in the role of Aphrodite, wearing little more than a bodysuit and a thinly veiled smock. My first straight play and I had to hold a still pose for an entire scene. While I stood like a statue, actors discussed their battle strategies using the “statue” as their inferred map. Not laughing each night, in front of the full audiences, proved to be one of the toughest scenes I’ve ever had to do.”

Noel Gaspar (BSc’54, PhD’58) studied chemistry at UNB for eight years, from 1950 to 1958. “Seven of those years were closely tied to the Memorial Hall. Only in my final year did I move higher up the campus to the F.J. Toole Chemistry Building. In my final year of my BSc, I was introduced to my home for the next four years in the basement of the Memorial Hall. I started doing polarographic research for my honours dissertation and stayed there carrying out research for my PhD. To get to my laboratory one had to proceed through the furnace room, go up a few cement steps and go through a large fire door. A few years ago, Peter Coates (BBA'83) arranged for me to revisit my lab. The then-director of the Art Centre didn’t even know of the existence of this area, but someone did and was using my lab for a nicely furnished lounge. Back in the 50s there were several rooms hidden behind the fire door including my lab, a photographic dark room, a room containing a mill used to grind up moss for the organic chemistry students to extract their lycopodium alkaloids and a room housing a rather sensitive photo spectrometer which needed a vibrationfree location in the cellars. But even this location failed during the summers when the teachers attending summer school held their weekly square dance in the hall above us. No work could be done those evenings! Not surprisingly we received few visitors in this location.

The furnace back then was an old coal burner which occasionally backfired, filling the area with black soot, which was why we made sure the fire door was always kept closed. However, one day in early 1957 a knock came at our door and when we opened it there was President Colin B. McKay! He had seen my marriage announcement in The Gleaner and came to offer his good wishes. Those were the days of the university family. He was pleasantly surprised to see how well the university facilities were being used.

Not long after that, however, the new chemistry building was announced and we were given the opportunity to give input into the design of our new labs we would be moving into. So, for the final year of my studies, we lived and worked in the lap of luxury. The cellars of the Memorial Hall will however always be a ‘fond’ memory of my UNB years.”


Today, the UNB Art Centre continues to present exhibits that promote dialogue and discussion and continues to provide courses in painting as one of the many offerings through Leisure Learning non-credit courses and Design Works summer camps for kids.

Art Centre Director Marie Maltais says the UNB Permanent Collection, which began with only a few paintings, now numbers 2,500 artworks and is displayed across the campus. She also said the UNB Art Centre reflects contemporary values in its programming. Since 2011, it has developed exhibits bringing awareness to social and environmental issues, particularly water stewardship through its participation in World Water Day.

She also highlighted one of the centre’s most notable projects, Rediscovering the Roots of Black New Brunswickers.

“For the last five years we have celebrated Black History Month through this project,” says Marie. “It brings to light Black New Brunswickers who have made a significant contribution to shaping contemporary New Brunswick in their fight for freedom and equality.”

As Memorial Hall recognizes its 100th year, its legacy continues to inspire and guide generations of students, faculty and artists.

"Memorial Hall holds one of my life’s utmost happiest memories." — Bao Yih Chang (MSc'70)