Kathleen (Keefe) Murphy was one of the trailblazers and early pioneer women who enrolled at Saint Dunstan’s University (SDU). To honour their mother and the first female students at UPEI’s founding institution, the Murphy family recently created a legacy gift to support renovations to the interior of UPEI’s Chaplaincy Centre and to create a small outdoor amphitheatre.

For close to 90 years, SDU students were men being trained in the areas of religious vocations, lawyers, doctors, teachers and public servants. With the start of World War II, and the societal changes that were happening in the late 1930s and 40s, a small number of women applied and were eventually accepted as students.

Mrs. Murphy, who enrolled at SDU in 1945, pursued her education in science, and she and Lorraine MacNeilly were the first females to earn their Bachelor of Science degree from the University. Murphy was committed to her beliefs; in particular, she valued the importance of education and ensured that her children projected a sense of service and promise. Making a marked impact on their entire family, her children wanted to do something to celebrate their mother, which led to the idea of the gift.

“This is a celebration of thanks,” commented Shawn Murphy, the eldest of Kathleen Murphy’s eight children. “A big thank you and recognition for our mother for everything she has done for us as a family; a recognition and thank you to a group of women, including our mother, who were among the first female students at Saint Dunstan’s University in the late 30s and 40s; and a thank you to the University for all that it has contributed to our lives, our society, and economy.”

Mrs. Murphy, her eight children, along with many of their children and grandchildren, gathered on the UPEI campus recently for a recognition event and to view the Chaplaincy Centre renovations and new amphitheatre, which was constructed to honour the memory of all early women who attended Saint Dunstan’s from 1945–1969.

The Chaplaincy Centre, which was originally built in 1965 as Saint Dunstan’s Student Union coffee house, is now home the Chaplain’s office, a meditation chapel, and provides an all-faith location to meet, socialize, and hold religious services.

The University of Prince Edward Island prides itself on people, excellence, and impact and is committed to assisting students reach their full potential in both the classroom and community. With roots stemming from two founding institutions—Prince of Wales College and Saint Dunstan’s University—UPEI has a reputation for academic excellence, research innovation, and creating positive impacts locally, nationally, and internationally. UPEI is the only degree granting institution in the province and is proud to be a key contributor to the growth and prosperity of Prince Edward Island. UPEI is located on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.




Media contact:
Nicole Phillips
Associate Director, Marketing and Communications
University of Prince Edward Island
902-566-0947 nphillips@upei.ca