Divinity House announcement – Memo from the Principal

Divinity House announcement – Memo from the Principal

To the Bishop’s Community,

Earlier today at an event held in the McConnell Agora of the Library Learning Commons, Jean-François Roberge, Minister of Education and Higher Education, announced that the Government of Quebec, through an additional capital grant from the Plan quinquennal des investissements universitaires (PQI), will provide $5.9M of the $6.9M needed to renovate and re-equip Divinity House and transform it into an Indigenous Students Gathering Space and Resource Centre.

As you know, Divinity House which is 127 years old was vacated four years ago because it is structurally unsound. We have been facing the deeply demoralizing prospect of having to demolish the building. This would have been an incalculable loss to the historical and architectural heritage of Bishop’s.

Fortunately, thanks to the determination of many people and the support of the Quebec government, the building will once again play a central role in the life of the University.

Our vision is that the Centre will not only provide a space for Indigenous students but will also be a place where Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and community members can gather to learn with and from one another.

This vision was developed based on consultations with Indigenous students from Bishop’s University and Champlain Regional College and with representatives from Indigenous communities with whom we have established relationships. We have also been inspired by best practices at other universities in Canada.

We are particularly pleased with the dialogue we have begun with the leaders of the Abenaki community of Odanak, the original stewards of the land on which our campus is located.  We are at the beginning of a reconciliation journey in which the Bishop’s community has much to learn.  We are grateful to Chief Richard O’Bomsawin and the members of his community who have generously participated in a process of education and reconciliation with us.

Our consultations about what to include in the building and how to design it will continue as we consider how best to transform our aspirations into reality.

We have established an Executive Committee for the project which will be led by Dr. Trygve Ugland. David Lacroix and Maria Ines Calvo, of our Buildings and Grounds Department, will be the Project Managers.

Following a public call for tender, the architectural firm ARCHITEM and the engineering firms CIMA+, EXP and St-Georges Structures et Civil have been selected to carry out the project. ARCHITEM is an award-winning firm with experience in renovation of heritage buildings which is known for its creative approach to interior design.

The community consultation process will resume in the next few weeks in parallel with the 3d scanning of the existing structure. We intend to launch the call for tenders for construction in the spring of 2020. Construction will start in late summer or early fall of 2020. The construction work is expected to take about a year to complete, and the Centre should be ready for occupancy in September 2021.

Stephen Lloyd ’89, who chaired the Divinity House Task Force, has agreed to lead the effort to raise the additional $1M required to complete the project. Just over $100,000 has already been committed, and we will be focusing our approaches on graduates who lived in Divinity, individuals, foundations and corporations that have an interest in Indigenous issues, and members of the Bishop’s community who hold Divinity House dear to their hearts.

We will keep you informed as this exciting project proceeds.

Michael Goldbloom, C.M.
Principal & Vice-Chancellor