The history of the Mount is a story of humanity and growth. From its inception, the University has been concerned about the welfare and fortune of individuals and communities, at home and abroad. Established by the Sisters of Charity in 1873, the Mount was one of the only institutions of higher education for women in Canada. At a time when women could not vote, the Mount provided an opportunity for women to learn and participate equally in society.

The original purpose of the academy was to train novices and young sisters as teachers, but the Sisters also recognized a need to educate other young women and therefore opened the academy to young women who lived in the city of Halifax.

By 1912, the Sisters recognized a need to offer greater opportunity through university education. In keeping with their progressive thinking, they immediately adopted a plan to establish a college for young women. To ensure that the education provided by the future college would be of the highest quality, Mother Mary Berchmans Walsh sent a number of Sisters to earn doctoral degrees at institutions such as Notre Dame, the Sorbonne, Fordham, and the Catholic University of America.

In 1925, through the efforts of such people as Dr. Mary Evaristus Moran, S.C., the Nova Scotia Legislature passed a bill granting a charter to Mount Saint Vincent College empowering it to grant its own degrees. With that, Mount Saint Vincent College became the only independent women’s college in the British Commonwealth. It offered degrees in Education, Nursing and Arts.

Sister Evaristus served as the first President (1925-1944) of Mount Saint Vincent College. She worked tirelessly for the development of the new college and for the young women who came to be educated there. When she became Superior General in 1944, Sister Maria Rosaria Gorman succeeded her as President.

Sister Rosaria’s term as President (1944-1954) saw many significant changes in the college, particularly in its physical plant. A fire in January of 1951 completely destroyed the original Mount: Motherhouse, novitiate, academy and college. Students and Sisters were temporarily housed elsewhere in the city and classes were conducted in borrowed space. Fortunately, a new building had been started in 1949 and was ready by the Fall of 1951. This building, now recognized as Evaristus Hall, served as the only residence, administrative and academic facility until 1966. During these years, the Sisters carried the total financial responsibility for the operation of the college and provided the land and the funding required for the construction of Evaristus Hall. There were also changes made in program offerings during Sister Rosaria’s term. By 1951, degrees were offered in Arts, Secretarial Science, Music, Home Economics, Library Science, Nursing and Education.

Also in 1951, the first lay person was hired as a faculty member. Until then, the college had been staffed solely by Sisters, who until 1956 received no salaries other than minimal living expenses. In fact, even when salaries were recorded for the Sisters, all but living expenses were contributed back to the institution until 1973. Those who taught and worked at the institution were fully committed to its mission and to the young female students whom they served. It was because of this commitment and the fact that a large percentage of the college’s income came from contributed services that the institution was able to grow. At no other university would faculty members (Sisters, in this case) be found setting dining room tables, making beds, providing general housekeeping and maintenance, fixing clocks, and staffing the switchboard, in addition to carrying out regular teaching and research duties. Contributed services accounted for 35 per cent or more of the total income for the college until at least the mid-sixties.

As the Mount moves into its future, it is preparing to transform an academic environment that will ultimately transform lives. A recognized leader in Flexible Education, professional studies, traditional Arts and Sciences and applied research, the Mount is on the threshold of a future as vital as the ocean within its sightline. Building on its distinct features and esteemed history, the Mount will become an environment for transformative learning and a university with unparalleled social impact – at home, across the country, and overseas. It is these distinctive features that make the Mount unique in the post-secondary landscape and connect our past to our future.

Our Presidents

In keeping with the objectives of the University to provide strong leadership role models, twelve presidents have all been women. From 1925, when Mount Saint Vincent became the only independent women’s college in the British Commonwealth (and when few women had achieved PhD status) to the present day, women administrators from both the lay and religious communities have continually renewed the University’s commitment to provide a positive learning environment where women’s contributions and perspectives are valued. View a list of the Mount’s Presidents »

Caritas Day

In 1951, a devastating fire broke out resulting in the destruction of the entire Mount campus, which at the time, was just one building. The fire left the Mount community understandably devastated and left students with nowhere to learn. In a time of great need, the people of Halifax were quick to step in and offer spaces all around the city where classes could be conducted until construction on Evaristus Hall was completed later the same year.

The generosity shown to the Mount community is why on the last Wednesday of January each year the Mount celebrates Caritas Day. The word caritas is Latin and means “charity.” The Sisters of Charity—Halifax (the University’s founders) established the day as a way to give back to the community through acts of kindness, volunteerism and charity. Caritas Day is a means of paying forward the tremendous support provided to the Mount family many years ago.

The Coat of Arms

Coat of ArmsThe University coat of arms was granted by the Heraldic College in London in 1966. It is based on the coat of arms of the family of Elizabeth Seton, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity. The three crescents are from the coat of arms of the Seton family. In the Seton arms, these crescents are tinctured red on a gold field. Blue and gold are the colours of the French arms and betoken affinity with Saint Vincent de Paul. The book represents knowledge; the maple leaves on either side, Canada. The dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, emphasizes that knowledge is a means of wisdom, the highest gift of God. Veritas ad Deum ducit, the University motto, translates as “truth leads to God.” A banner bearing the coat of arms is on display in the Library. It was made by Professor Robert Doyle, founding member of the Costume Studies Department at Dalhousie University.

A university logo was introduced in 1999. The origins of the logo lie in the coat of arms so it retains strong ties to the University’s history while taking on a more progressive tone. The logo is used for all but the most formal occasions.

The Mace

The mace is a symbol of authority for the University Chancellor, and Mount Saint Vincent University’s mace is unique. It is believed that the Mount is the only university whose mace was made by a member of the institution’s own faculty. Carved by Barry Wheaton, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, and presented in 1978, the solid oak mace expresses the University motto with symbols and human figures.

Academic Colours

Students receiving certificates and diplomas wear black gowns with white collars. Students receiving degrees wear black gowns with the appropriate coloured hoods. Hoods include a satin lining in the two university colours (light and dark blue), with a velvet edging in a colour specific to each degree. The velvet edging on a Bachelor hood is a 2″ wide trim and the band on the Masters hoods is 3″ wide velvet trim

Degree Colour
Bachelor of Arts (Child and Youth Study) Royal Blue
Bachelor of Applied Arts (Family Studies and Gerontology) Teal Green
Bachelor of Applied Arts (Information Technology) Geranium
Bachelor of Arts White
Bachelor of Business Administration Fawn
Bachelor of Education Pale Blue
Bachelor of Public Relations Bangkok Rose
Bachelor of Science Gold
Bachelor of Science (Applied Human Nutrition) Gold
Bachelor of Science (Science Communication) Gold
Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management Diaptase (Jewel Green)
Master of Arts (all) White
Master of Education Pale Blue
Master of Science (Applied Human Nutritition) Gold
Master of Applied Human Nutritition Wine
Master of Public Relations Bangkok Rose


Mount Alumni

The Mount Saint Vincent Alumni Association works closely with the Mount Saint Vincent University Department of University Advancement, which encompasses the Alumni Relations and Development Offices, to ensure that all Mount Saint Vincent alumni remain connected with the University after graduation. The Alumni Association, which was founded in 1921, assists in working towards the mission and objectives of Mount Saint Vincent University. Read more on the alumni website »

Honorary Alumni

Over the years since 1971, the Mount has bestowed honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (DHumL) degrees on women and men who have contributed to the betterment of society and humanity in any field, and who exemplify the University’s mission. View the list of honorary degree recipients.