St. Francis Xavier College was founded as Arichat College, a Roman Catholic diocesan educational institution at Arichat, Nova Scotia, in 1853. Arichat College was moved to its present location in Antigonish, and established as St. Francis Xavier College in 1855. On May 7, 1866, St. Francis Xavier College was given university status, becoming St. Francis Xavier University. The university awarded its first degrees in 1868.
In 1883 Mount St. Bernard Academy was founded for female education, with girls from primary grades to grade 12 taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame.
Architect Henry Frederick Busch designed the college building in 1888.
In 1894, the academy affiliated with St. Francis Xavier University as Mount St. Bernard College. In 1897, the school became the first co-educational Catholic university in North America to grant degrees to women. Four women were awarded university degrees in 1897.
A metal plaque in the St. Francis Xavier University Chapel is dedicated to the thirty-three members of the college, now St. Francis Xavier University, who were killed in service during the First World War (1914–18).
In February 1922, St. Francis Xavier University's War Memorial Rink, with a brick exterior and wooden interior, opened. After the War Memorial Rink was officially closed on February 8, 2002, the building was torn down and a new science complex was built in the old rink's place.
StFX's extension department has engaged in community development in Antigonish since 1928 while the Coady International Institute at StFX has engaged in community development globally since 1959.
A metal plaque, unveiled on 5 May 1984, was dedicated by the university's class of 1984, in honour of those students killed in armed conflict while defending the liberty of Canadians.
In 1985 the number of women students at St. Francis Xavier became equal to the number of men for the first time. In 1990, the women's college existed as a residence only.
In the early 20th century, professional education expanded beyond the traditional fields of theology, law and medicine. Graduate training based on the German-inspired American model of specialized course work and the completion of a research thesis was introduced. The policy of university education initiated in the 1960s responded to population pressure and the belief that higher education was a key to social justice and economic productivity for individuals and for society.
The St. Francis Xavier tartan was designed as a university tartan in 1994.
In 1996 StFX implemented Canada's first Service Learning program, which provided opportunities for international learning.
On March 21, 2014, the board of governors announced Kent MacDonald as incoming president of StFX, to assume office on August 1, 2014.
On December 3, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Francis Xavier University held its annual X-Ring ceremony with the majority of the graduating students attending. Public health officials declared an outbreak at the university on December 8, 2021. On December 13, 2021, the university's president tested positive for COVID-19. As of December 17, 2021, 183 students have notified the university that they have tested positive for COVID-19.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston announced on December 17, 2021, that the university and the students' union had both been issued summary offence tickets and fined $11,622.50 each; the maximum amount that can be handed out. Houston said the university failed to abide by the province's COVID-19 restrictions, specifically masking requirements.
Maclean's 2022 Guide to Canadian Universities ranked St. Francis Xavier seventh in the magazine's undergraduate university category. In the same year, the university placed 34th in Maclean's reputational survey of Canadian universities.
St Francis Xavier University is organized into the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Science, the Gerald Schwartz School of Business, Faculty of Education, the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and the Coady International Institute. Each faculty has subordinate departments under its administration appropriate to each discipline, for example the Department of Philosophy is part of the Faculty of Arts. Faculties are headed by a dean elected from among the constituent professors.
The Faculty of Arts encompasses the following departments and programs: Anthropology, Aquatic Resources, Fine Arts, Canadian Studies, Catholic Studies, Celtic Studies, Classical Studies, Development Studies, Economics, English, History, Humanities Colloquium, Modern Languages, Philosophy, Political Science, Public Policy & Governance, Psychology, Religious Studies, Social Justice Colloquium, Sociology, Women's and Gender Studies, Music and Jazz Studies (The first bachelor's degree in Jazz Studies in all of Canada).
The Faculty of Science offers the following departments and programs: Aquatic Resources, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Human Kinetics, Human Nutrition, Mathematics and Statistics, Nursing and Physics.
The Gerald Schwartz School of Business offers degrees in Business Administration, with majors in Accounting, Enterprise Development, Finance, Information Systems, Leadership in Management, and Marketing.
The Faculty of Education offers degrees in Adult Education and Education.
The Music Department hosts one of North America's leading undergraduate jazz studies program.
The current Dean of Arts is Karen Brebner, the Dean of Science is Joseph Apaloo, the Dean of Business is Bobbi Morrison, and the Dean of Education is Lace Marie Brogden.
The university offers also graduate programs leading to Master of Arts (M.A. Celtic Studies), Master of Science (M.Sc.) and Master of Education (M.Ed.) degrees.
St. Francis Xavier offers over $2 million annually in merit-based scholarships and financial aid to its new and current undergraduates. Applicants with a Grade 12 average of at least 85% are automatically guaranteed an entrance scholarship worth at least $5,000 ($1,250 each year for four years), and at least $7,000 for those with Grade 12 averages above 90% ($1,750 each year for four years). Applicants are also automatically considered for larger merit-based scholarships ranging from $12,000 to $32,000 (Merit, Phillip W. Oland, J.P. McArthy, Canadian, President's). Area-specific scholarships also exist for applicants from certain provinces and the United States. St. Francis Xavier University also offers the James A. Martin Awards for Aboriginal, First Nations and Métis students. In order to receive each subsequent installment of a scholarship (typically there are four installments), students must maintain a university course average of at least 80%.
The Xaverian Weekly is the student newspaper, run by the Xaverian Weekly Publications Society, and prints 1,000 copies of 15 issues over the course of the school year. The newspaper is a member of the Canadian University Press, and is editorially autonomous from the StFX Students' Union.
Originally called Excelsior, the newspaper began as a monthly journal of literary essays and campus news founded in 1895 by M.A. McAdam and J.W. McIsaac. The editors changed the paper's name to The Xaverian Weekly in 1903.
St. Francis Xavier students are represented by St. Francis Xavier University Students' Union. It is a student-run organization providing services and activities ranging from administering a medical and dental plan to concerts and orientation activities.
The Students' Union Building (Bloomfield Centre) houses the offices of the Students' Union Executive and various societies, the Golden X Inn, the MacKay Room (a large space for events), a cafeteria, Jack's Lounge, the campus post office, and the university bookstore.
Approximately 50% of students (90% of first-year students) at St. Francis Xavier live on-campus in the university's traditional residences or apartment-style housing. Usually, students in first and second years live in traditional residences, where social life is very active, while students in second and third years tend to live in apartment-style residences where they have the possibility of cooking for themselves. Apartment-style residences consist typically of four bedroom apartments with two full bathrooms and a small kitchen. Students who live in traditional residence are registered in a mandatory meal plan at the central dining facility, Morrison Hall. Alternatively, students may enroll in a block plan that provides a specified number of meals. St. Francis Xavier has a contract with Sodexo, serving food and conference meals at facilities on campus.
Bishops Hall residence
Traditional residences at St. Francis Xavier:
Burke, Plessis and Fraser Houses in Bishops' Hall (renovated in 2007)
Cameron Hall (Previously divided into MacPherson, MacDonald, and TNT (Thompson and Tompkins))
Chillis (Chisholm and Gillis) and MacNeil Houses in MacKinnon Hall
St. Francis Xavier University ceremonially awards to students a distinctive x-ring. The ring is awarded on December 3 (Saint Francis Xavier's feast day) of each year before the students' graduation. On average, more than 95% of the graduating class opt for the ring.
The x-ring is presented to students in a ceremony during the afternoon, which only recipients may attend. Traditionally, this ceremony was held in the university chapel; however, since 2006 it has been hosted in Charles V. Keating Millennium Centre. There is typically a live video link of the ceremony available for family and friends to watch from across the world or from a large screen set up in the Oland Centre on campus.
St. Francis Xavier University Class Ring of 1945
StFX students on X-Ring Day (December 3)
In addition to those awarded to students, there is one honorary x-ring awarded annually. The X-Ring Eligibility Policy states that this recipient must not already hold an x-ring, and must demonstrate outstanding contribution to the Xaverian community and be exemplary of the Xaverian motto: "Quaecumque sunt vera" (What so ever things are true).
Since Riley was named president in 1996, the university has undergone a $230 million campus renewal initiative to improve educational and residential opportunities throughout campus. To date, the initiative has seen the completion of eleven large-scale projects.
The creation of the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government was announced in October 2016. The project includes a $40 million capital investment as well as $20 million in endowment funds for the institute. Named after former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, an alumnus of the university, the centre is the first of its type at a primarily undergraduate university in Canada dedicated to issues of public policy and governance.
Riley Hall (2014) and O'Regan Hall (2013). Named in honour of the university's former president (1996–2014), Sean Riley, as well the late Paul O’Regan and Stephen O’Regan, founders of O’Regan's Automotive Group, the new buildings each house over 150 students feature a mix of single and apartment-style rooms. In 2015, the new residences were ranked best university residences in Canada by UniversityHub. Each room is equipped with its own bathroom, fridge, microwave, flat-screen TV, and is similar to a hotel room. The residence also includes a gym, movie room, laundry room, fully equipped kitchens on each floor, and a lounge on the fourth floor featuring a 22' coffered vaulted ceiling and large bay windows. Each building is heated and cooled by using 26 geothermal wells, and is designed to be LEED Gold Certified for energy efficiency.
Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership was opened on May 11, 2011. Former US president Bill Clinton attended as keynote speaker. The $12 million facility is designed to broaden the leadership environment that already exists at St. Francis Xavier. Located in the heart of St. Francis Xavier's campus, the McKenna Centre supports targeted initiatives in the fields of public policy, business, and health, including a leadership speakers series and a leaders in residence program. The centre is home to an executive leadership training program, educating top national and international talent.
Construction of the Gerald Schwartz School of Business building began in June 2009, after an investment of $22.7 million from the federal and provincial governments. The grand opening was held on November 5, 2011, in presence of Gerry Schwartz, president of Onex Corporation, and Frank McKenna. It was named after the businessman in recognition of his donations to the university. The school hosts 15 streams of Bachelor of Business Administration studies as well as a Bachelor of Information Systems with a major or minor. The new facility, topped by a gilt dome, houses four floors of classrooms, an auditorium, lecture halls, faculty office space, seminar rooms, student service centre, lounges, research labs and meeting areas.
A brand-new, all-weather playing field and rubberized track, featuring an artificial turf, an eight-lane, 400-meter track, and light towers. The $2.8 million project was completed in 130 days over the summer of 2009.
Gilmora Hall in Mount St. Bernard College underwent a renovation in order to house the university's Music Department during the summer of 2008.
An $11 million renovation of Bishops Hall, which includes Fraser, Burke and Plessis residences, was completed in September 2007. The building was upgraded with wireless internet access, new heating, plumbing, ventilation and electrical systems, elevators were installed, and most rooms became single occupancy, with a small number of them remaining as double occupancy.
The construction of Governors Hall was completed in September 2006. It is an $18 million hotel-style residence, which includes 226 rooms on four floors. It is aimed at upper-year students. From May to August, Governors Hall operates as a hotel.
Complete renovation of MacIssac Hall, an existing residence, at a cost of $8 million. This project was also completed in September 2006.
St. Francis Xavier Physical Sciences Centre, a $25 million sciences complex built in 2004.
Charles V. Keating Millennium Centre, a $20 million athletics and conference centre built in 2001. The building houses two large ice surfaces and the main surface can be converted into a large open area mainly for concerts and Graduation. The building's area can hold over 2,207 people with room to spare.
Keating Millennium Centre
Complete renovation of Morrison Hall, the main dining facility at St. Francis Xavier.
The construction of two apartment-style residences in 1998, Power Hall and Somers Hall, aimed at upper-year students.
St. Francis Xavier is represented in the Atlantic University Sport conference by 12 varsity athletics teams. The X-Men teams include men's football, basketball, cross-country, track and field, soccer, and hockey. The X-Women teams include basketball, cross country, track and field, hockey, rugby and soccer.
St.FX women's hockey
In 1966, the X-Men Football team won the College Bowl (now the Vanier Cup) as top university football team in Canada. The X-Men Basketball program has won three CIS Championships (1993, 2000, and 2001) and in 2004, the X-Men Hockey team won their first CIS Championship. In 2011, the X-Women Hockey team placed second at the CIS Championships in Ottawa.
In 2006, the X-Women Rugby team became the first female St. Francis Xavier varsity team to win a CIS Championship, as 10-time defending AUS Rugby Champions. In 2008, the team placed 2nd at the CIS Championships in Lethbridge, Alberta after capturing their 12th consecutive AUS Championship. In 2010, the X-Women captured gold again in the CIS Championship held at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, after capturing their 14th consecutive AUS Championship. On November 4, 2012, the X-Women won gold again at the CIS Championship held in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
On 4 April 2003 Canada Post issued "St. Francis Xavier University, 1853–2003" as part of the Canadian Universities series. The stamp was based on a design by Denis L'Allier, based on a photograph by Guy Lavigueur. The 48¢ stamps are perforated 13.5 and were printed by Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited.