Larkin Kerwin boardroom inaugurated at St. Lawrence

Photo: Terry Kerwin

From L-R: SLC director Jean Robert, Maria Guadalupe Kerwin and Thomas O'Grady pose with a portrait of Dr. Larkin Kerwin. The portrait will hang in the college boardroom now dedicated in his honour.

The memory of a man known for his great intelligence and compassion will now preside over the boardroom deliberations of the school he helped found.

Champlain St. Lawrence officially named its boardroom in honour of the late Dr. Larkin Kerwin in a ceremony that brought the school's administrators, the Kerwin family, and community members together last Friday.

Following the school's 50th anniversary last year, Jean Robert, Champlain St. Lawrence's director, said choosing one of the college's early founders was a natural choice for the boardroom built nearly two years ago.

"In a small room, in a small college, we remember an important man," said Robert. "We will have the opportunity, when we sit in this room, to think of this man."

A photograph and a biography written by his son, Terry, will be mounted in the room -- now increasingly used by the school and the community for videoconferencing, Robert said.

Seven of Kerwin's eight children attended the ceremony. For his eldest, Lupita Kerwin, it was an emotional day. "It means a lot because he's been gone for five years. It's touching to know people are still honouring his memory," she said.

Kerwin passed away suddenly at the age of 80 in May 2004.

Kerwin began working toward establishing the boys classical college in 1957, when he was approached by Thomas O'Grady, then an assistant to Archbishop Maurice Roy. Archbishop Roy had a vision of creating an institution of higher learning for Quebec City's Irish community.

"The idea provided a bridge to the English community to higher education," said O'Grady. "If a family didn't have money to send their children away to school, they didn't get a university education."

"When he founded this college, he was thinking about his own children as well as his community," Lupita Kerwin said. So far, fourteen Kerwin children and grandchildren have been educated at the school.

Under the patronage of Cardinal Roy, both men travelled to visit Bishop John MacDonald at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, to recruit priests as teachers for the college .

By September 1958, the men had secured enough teachers to instruct 24 high school boarders. Eight years later, after signing an entente with Université Laval, the first graduates from the classical college received Bachelor of Arts diplomas.

Champlain St. Lawrence is not the first to honour the memory of Kerwin as a renowned scientist, administrator and community educator.

The Canadian Space Agency, which Kerwin headed in its early days, now houses the Larkin Kerwin Library. A street in St. John's, Newfoundland, bears his name, and a monument dedicated to the country's great Irish-Canadians, including Kerwin, will soon be constructed in Vancouver.