Building named for founder Fr. Aubin at long last
Fr. Theophile Aubin — the French-born Edmundite priest most directly responsible at the dawn of the 20th Century for Saint Michael’s College coming into being at its present Winooski Park site — now has a building named for him on campus.
The newly named Aubin Hall previously has been known since its 2013 construction simply as Quad Commons Residence Hall. The handsome and modern four-story 103-bed building, attached by a walkway to Dion Family Student Center in the middle of the first-year Quad, was dedicated under its new name and blessed with Holy Water on June 1, the Friday of Reunion 2018 Weekend. Many Edmundites, trustees, President Jack Neuhauser and other College officials, alumni and students attended the brief midday ceremony.
Speakers for the occasion said that while the honor was long overdue given Fr. Aubin’s central role in the College’s founding, this nonetheless was a happy “better-late-than-never” occasion for the Edmundites and College officials, who expressed gratitude to Trustees for moving the naming opportunity forward so quickly once Edmundite Superior General Very Rev. Stephen Hornat, SSE’72 brought the idea to President Jack Neuhauser last year.
In brief remarks, the president said he fast realized after learning about Fr. Aubin from Fr. Steve that he ought to help convince the board why the renaming would be more than appropriate — particularly in a year with the Edmundites celebrating the 175th year since their founding in France. He joked that, but not for Fr. Aubin, the College might have ended up in New York “on the wrong side of the lake” – including the Yankee fans that might unfortunately have entailed from his view as a lifelong Red Sox fan. A smiling Neuhauser told trustees that more typically, a naming opportunity might be associated with a major financial gift “and we have lots of unnamed property just dying for names.”
However, Fr. Hornat in his talk that followed noted that many buildings around campus already are named for the Edmundite founders of the College – Alliot, Cheray, Jeanmarie, Nicolle, Prevel and Salmon. He read an excerpt from a book on Edmundite history by Tom Geno stating “one might wonder at the absence of Fr. Aubin’s name on today’s campus, a slight not only unfortunate but inexcusable.” But now, Hornat said, “the inexcusable is no longer the case,” thanks to the president and trustees’ efficient initiative on the matter. Director of Facilities James Farrington shared that his crew had placed letters spelling Aubin Hall on the building’s exterior in days prior to the ceremony, and placed the commemorative plaque on the exterior wall by the walkway entrance telling about Fr. Aubin. Trustee Bob Tobin ‘64, present at the ceremony, speculated about a possible distant family connection, since Ireland’s Tobins (his ancestors), derive their name from Normans with the name Aubin who came through England to Ireland.
Handouts available at the ceremony told some of Fr. Aubin’s interesting story, which was recounted in brief by Fr. Hornat before he said a prayer and blessed the entrance and plaque with a sprinkling of Holy Water.
Hornat said that key to Father Aubin’s role in the purchase of what had been the Kelly Farm, for use as the new Edmundite Saint Michael’s House headquarters and subsequent college, was that he was the first Edmundite with the foresight to become an American citizen, allowing him to put his name on deeds and get collateral to pay for the property.
Hornat recounted how during a recent trip to France with fellow Edmundites and others in honor of the 175th Edmundite-founding anniversary, the group passed the French village not far from Mont-Saint-Michel where Fr. Aubin was born (Cherrueix) , and it has a main thoroughfare called “Theophile” which probably derives from the same person for whom Aubin was named.
Aubin was born in 1866, a year before Edmundites starting a foundation at Mont Saint Michel, Hornat said, “and at 11 years old he would have been present at the crowning of the statue of Saint Michael atop the spire of Mont Saint Michel. His first meeting with the Edmundites would have been at the apostolic school where he was most likely a student and educated,” Hornat said, continuing the story by describing how Aubin took first vows at Pontigny at age 21 and was first assigned to teach at a school in Laval. “Here was a man in his early 20s who understood the value of a Catholic education in the Edmundite tradition because he experienced it himself,” Hornat said. “That’s the vision he brought over to the U.S.,” when at age 27 he came to Swanton and built a school, then another, he said, adding, “Education was a primary focus of his, and when he came down to this piece of property in Winooski, he said ‘this is where the Edmundites need to have their principal house … and have their college.”