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December 10, 2012

S. Donna Geernaert and Sisters of Charity recognized for contributions

Sister Donna Receives Medal

At a special ceremony on December 8, the Mount's Chancellor, Sister Donna Geernaert, was presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal on behalf of the Sisters of Charity for their contributions to the advancement and education of women and to achieving excellence in higher education in Canada. (From left: President Ramona Lumpkin, Sister Donna Geernaert, Board Chair Sarah Veinot)

The Diamond Jubilee Medal is a new commemorative medal created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the Throne as Queen of Canada. His Excellency, the Governor General of Canada David Johnston notes that the medal is a tangible way to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.

“We’re so delighted that Sister Donna and the Sisters of Charity have been recognized in this way,” says Ramona Lumpkin, the Mount’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “The Sisters of Charity have played an integral role in the Mount’s founding, history and transformation and have been at the forefront of advancing the interests and education of women throughout our history.”

The medal was presented by Dr. Lumpkin and Sarah Veinot, Chair of the Mount’s Board of Governors. Sister Donna and the Sisters of Charity were nominated for the award by the Mount through the auspices of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).


From the nomination of Sister Donna Geernaert and the Sisters of Charity

Coming to Halifax in 1849 as teachers, the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, Halifax, established and ran a broad range of schools, including Mount Saint Vincent Academy in 1873, and, in 1925, Mount Saint Vincent College, the first and only independent degree-granting college for women in Canada and the Commonwealth. The Mount, as it’s now known, 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. In 1925, the Nova Scotia Legislature passed a bill granting a charter to Mount Saint Vincent College empowering it to grant its own degrees.

The Sisters of Charity have played an integral role in the Mount’s founding, history and transformation through their contributions as leaders in the capacity as University Presidents, teachers and faculty members, administrators, volunteers and Board members.

We credit our founders for our ability to continue to focus on the advancement of women, for providing an environment for transformative learning and being a university with unparalleled social impact – at home, across the country, and overseas.  We nominate Sister Donna Geernaert, Congregational Leader of Sisters of Charity Halifax, and Chancellor, Mount Saint Vincent University, for a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.