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Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

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Post-secondary education in New Brunswick

The first private colleges

Early efforts

In the early 19th century, several unsuccessful attempts were made to establish teaching institutions in New Brunswick. In 1832, a priest from Quebec, Antoine Gagnon, and Msgr. MacEachern, the Bishop of Charlottetown, opened Gédaïc College in Grande-Digue, which lasted only three years before closing. It was the first French-language college in New Brunswick.

In 1854, François-Xavier LaFrance, another priest from Quebec, opened the Séminaire Saint-Thomas in Memramcook. The seminary closed owing to financial problems in 1862. The first Acadian initiative in founding a college was the work of a priest called Marcel-François Richard. Collège de Saint-Louis de Kent, run by nuns from the Congregation of Notre-Dame, opened in 1874 but had to close in 1882, when the bishop of the diocese of Chatham decided that Irish Catholics could not receive an adequate education there.

Several convents where the language of instruction was French opened at various places around the province in the 19th century: Saint-Basile (1857-1873), Bouctouche (1880-1969), Memramcook (1873-1970) and Caraquet (1874-1959). All of the convents were run by religious orders; however, these convents also had to close for financial reasons after just a few years. These colleges and convents were the pioneers of French-language education in New Brunswick in the 19th century.

Collège Saint-Joseph, Memramcook

In 1864, two years after the closing of the Séminaire Saint-Thomas de Memramcook, Father Camille Lefebvre of the Congrégation de Sainte-Croix founded Collège Saint-Joseph on a piece of property bequeathed to him by Father François-Xavier LaFrance. A few students began to take courses in October. The college offered a bilingual education, as the Bishop of Saint John, Msgr. Sweeney, was concerned about the education of young Irish Catholics. In 1868, the provincial government gave the college permission to award degrees and in 1888, granted it university status. The number of university students continued to climb until 1932, and the administration was obliged to construct a new building to accommodate them. Another building was constructed in 1896 in memory of Father Lefebvre, who had died the previous year.

On October 20, 1933, the Université de Memramcook burned down, and classes were temporarily transferred to Moncton while the college was being rebuilt, a process that was completed in 1934. Classes resumed in Memramcook. In 1942, the institution reviewed several programs of study and set up some new programs that further strengthened its academic vocation. Around this time, several other colleges became affiliated with Université Saint-Joseph - Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie in Moncton, Collège l'Assomption and Séminaire Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours.

In 1953, Université Saint-Joseph moved some of its staff to Moncton. Following the recommendations made in the Deutsch Report, Université Saint-Joseph took the name of college again, leaving the way clear for the newly created Université de Moncton to become the only French-language university in New Brunswick. The two institutions maintained extremely close links throughout their coexistence. In 1965, the whole college moved onto the Université de Moncton campus and in 1972, Collège Saint-Joseph closed for good, leaving its teaching responsibilities to the faculty of arts at the Université de Moncton.


Collège du Sacré-Coeur

In 1899, the Eudist Fathers opened Collège du Sacré-Coeur in Caraquet. The priest of Caraquet, Théophile Allard, had been thinking about opening a college in the region for many years. He asked the Eudist Fathers, who had previously opened a French-language college in Church Point in southwestern Nova Scotia, to do the same in Caraquet. Collège du Sacré-Coeur received its university charter from the provincial government in 1900, and enrolment climbed over the next few years.

Students at the college were required to follow a long list of strict rules, as discipline was the watchword of the college. However, students did have the opportunity to participate in an extremely active college life, which included various forms of the arts, such as theatre and music, winter and summer sports, outings to nearby villages and pilgrimages to different holy places.

The college experienced a major growth curve in the early 20th century and was expanded several times in order to accommodate the steadily growing student body. Unfortunately, Collège du Sacré-Coeur was engulfed in flames on the night of December 30-31, 1915. The building was completely gutted and all the furniture consumed by the fire. The Eudist Fathers and the entire population of Caraquet were devastated by the news.

After considering various recommendations, the decision was made in January 1916 to rebuild Collège du Sacré-Coeur, this time in Bathurst, where a novitiate-scholasticate had been built in the early 1910s, and where there was room for the college classes to be held. Courses resumed in Bathurst in September 1916. A novitiate and juniorate program was offered in addition to college courses. In 1935, the college entered a new era of Canadian superiors (all the superiors had been French in the past). The first Acadian superior, Jules Comeau, came into office in 1943, two years after the college achieved university status.

Students at Collège du Sacré-Coeur in Bathurst also had the opportunity to participate in an extremely active college life, with arts and music, sports, literary societies and a student newspaper. In 1949, the Université du Sacré-Coeur in Bathurst became Collège de Bathurst. After the Université de Moncton opened in 1963, the college no longer awarded degrees, and in 1975 it became a campus of the New Brunswick Community College.


Collège Saint-Louis d'Edmundston

The need for an institution of higher learning was felt very early in the Madawaska area. In the 1860s, the Bishop of Chatham, Msgr. Rogers, considered the matter. However, despite the wishes of many, a college was not established in the Madawaska until 1945. Previously, students from northwestern New Brunswick had to travel to Bathurst, Memramcook or even as far away as Quebec to pursue their education. And so in 1945, the bishop of the new diocese of Edmundston gave the Eudist Fathers a mandate to open a college in the area.

The new college was named Collège Saint-Louis in honour of Msgr. Louis-Napoléon Dugal, an important figure in the religious life of the Madawaska area. Classes began in September 1945 in former military barracks built during World War II. Father Simon Larouche, the first superior of the college, headed a team of four priests.

In 1947, Collège Saint-Louis became Université Saint-Louis under the terms of a charter from the provincial government. In 1949, the university built a new campus and moved to more sturdy premises. That same year, Collège de Saint-Basile, which had become Collège Maillet, became an affiliate. Over the years, students from the two institutions were able to take the same courses and required to pass the same examinations. Université Saint-Louis conferred its first Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1953.

Students at the university enjoyed a typical college life. Discipline was strict, but there were many extracurricular activities, such as music, art, drama and sports. Throughout its existence, the financial situation of Université Saint-Louis was precarious; the Club 200, founded in 1960, made it possible to complete several much-needed extensions.

Following the recommendations of the Deutsch Report, Université Saint-Louis agreed, as did all the other French-language universities in the province, to cede its university charter to make way for the new Université de Moncton. The college then became part of the faculty of arts at the Université de Moncton, while keeping its administrative independence; Collège Maillet kept its affiliation. In 1972, Collège Saint-Louis and Collège Maillet merged to form Collège Saint-Louis-Maillet, which was administered by a new lay board of directors. In 1975, the college became a full-fledged division of the Université de Moncton like Collège Jésus-Marie de Shippagan and took the name of Centre universitaire Saint-Louis-Maillet, which it was known as until 1994, at which time the name changed to Université de Moncton, Edmundston campus.


The education of girls

Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie

Since 1870, the sisters of the Notre-Dame du Sacré-Coeur congregation have run a convent in Memramcook, giving Acadian girls an education under with the provincial program, as well as classes in music, religion and domestic science.

However, not until 1943 did the Académie Notre-Dame du Sacré-Coeur (NDSC) introduce a classical course that was identical to the program taught to boys at Université Saint-Joseph. For the first time in New Brunswick, Acadian girls could receive a bachelor's degree from a French-language institution. The program became increasingly popular, and soon a new building had to be constructed to house all the boarders and day students.

The decision was then made to build the new convent in Moncton, a city that was undergoing rapid growth at the time. The bishop of Moncton, Msgr. Norbert Robichaud, suggested naming the new institution Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie. Mother Marie-Jeanne de Valois (Bella Léger), who worked with a team of three other nuns, was the main instigator of the project. The construction of the huge college took two years, starting in 1947, under the supervision of architect Abbey Landry. In September 1949, the first new students entered the immense building, which had about 40 classrooms, a 300-seat chapel, a large auditorium, a 300-seat cafeteria and various other rooms.

Most of the students opted not to take the classical course offered by the college, preferring to take the high school course, commercial course, domestic science or various language courses. Like the students at other classical colleges in the province, the girls at Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie had access to a wide range of extracurricular activities, including art, music, sports and drama.

Following the publication of the Deutsch Report and the establishment of the Université de Moncton in 1963, Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie closed down in May 1965. About 300 girls took the classical course at Notre-Dame d'Acadie between 1949 and 1964.


Collège Maillet de Saint-Basile

A college for girls was established in the Madawaska area around the same time. The congregation of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, located in Saint-Basile since 1873, had a long-time mission to educate children. Although their convent and the "little college" they had founded in 1902 met their objectives, the sisters were always trying to do more for the population. In 1943, they founded a school that trained nurses to work in their local hospitals.

In 1949, the Religious Hospitallers, under Sister Marie-Rhéa Larose, opened the first classical college for girls in the region. However, the college was not officially inaugurated until September 1950. It was called Collège Maillet in honour of Reverend Mother Maillet, the great protector of the Saint-Basile convent. The college immediately affiliated with Université Saint-Louis, and students from the two colleges studied the same subjects and took the same examinations. Over the years, Collège Maillet offered not only the classical course but also a teacher training course, a medical secretary course, and a course that led to a bachelor's degree in nursing. The nursing program was closed in 1966, when the school of nursing opened at the Université de Moncton.

After the publication of the Deutsch Report and the establishment of the Université de Moncton in 1963, Collège Maillet was annexed to Collège Saint-Louis d'Edmundston, which had given up its university charter. In 1972, the Lafrenière Commission recommended the merger of Collège Maillet and Collège Saint-Louis, which became Collège Saint-Louis-Maillet, reporting to lay directors for the first time. In 1977, Collège Saint-Louis-Maillet became the Centre universitaire Saint-Louis-Maillet, a full-fledged division of the Université de Moncton, and then the Edmundston campus of the Université de Moncton, the name it goes by today.


Collège Jésus-Marie de Shippagan

Collège Jésus-Marie de Shippagan was founded by the Sisters of the Jésus-Marie Order, who originally came from France. In 1918, at the urging of a priest called Alfred Trudel, a delegation of three nuns settled in Lamèque in 1918, hoping to open a convent there. In 1948, Father Livain Chiasson asked the nuns to come to Shippagan and build a convent. The convent opened in September 1949, with a novitiate, a boarding school and classrooms, providing an education for young girls. Although the Shippagan convent was well run, enrolment declined after a new regional school was opened. The convent was then turned into a classical college for girls.

In 1960, the college began to offer the last year of high school, "versification" and the first year of the classical course - "belles lettres," or literature. In 1963, the college was annexed to Collège du Sacré-Coeur de Bathurst, with exams marked by professors from Collège de Bathurst and degrees conferred in Bathurst. When the Deutsch Report on higher education recommended that the college be closed, the population of the Acadian peninsula mobilized to fight the recommendation, and in 1972, the decision was made to merge the college into the Université de Moncton, offering the first two years of the Bachelor of Arts degree, as well as admitting boys for the first time. In 1977, Collège Jésus-Marie became the Centre universitaire de Shippagan, a full-fledged division of the Université de Moncton. In 1994, the institution changed its name again, becoming the Shippagan campus of the Université de Moncton.


The universities of New Brunswick

Université de Moncton

Although the Université de Moncton is New Brunswick's newest university, it is the successor of several 19th- and 20th-century institutions. The French-language colleges in the province, set up by various religious orders since the 1800s, played an important role in the establishment of the Université de Moncton. However, Collège Saint-Joseph de Memramcook is considered the university's direct ancestor. Founded in 1864 by Father Camille Lefebvre, the college was the only institution of higher learning in southeastern New Brunswick for nearly a century. However, when the Université de Moncton was established, there were eight French-language colleges in the province.

The idea of establishing a new French-language university in the province had been raised several times, but it was then-Premier Louis-J. Robichaud who set the process in motion. In 1960, when a memorandum was presented to him by Mount Allison, Saint-Joseph, Sacré-Coeur, Saint-Thomas and Saint-Louis colleges, the premier set up a royal commission on the funding of higher education in New Brunswick under John J. Deutsch. The commission took great care to study the status of all the colleges in the province and released its report on June 21, 1962. The report recommended, among other things, that a central university, the Université de Moncton, which would be the only French-language institution of higher learning in the province that was authorized to confer degrees, be set up, and that the university be affiliated with Saint-Joseph, Sacré-Coeur and Saint-Louis colleges.

On June 19, 1967, the provincial government passed the Université de Moncton Act, which officially established the largest French-language university in the Atlantic Provinces. The first president was Clément Cormier. The main campus was located in Moncton, but the colleges in Bathurst, Edmundston and Memramcook were directly affiliated with the university. In 1965, Collège Saint-Joseph began to move most of its staff to the Moncton campus.

In 1967, another report recommended that the university administration should be transferred from the Sainte-Croix congregation to lay administrators. The first lay president was Adélard Savoie. The affiliated colleges were now part of the faculty of arts. In 1972, the Lafrenière Commission changed the status of the affiliated colleges and the faculty of arts to make the colleges full-fledged divisions of the Université de Moncton and give each institution a seat in the university Senate. Collège Saint-Louis and Collège Maillet in the northwest were merged, and Collège Jésus-Marie de Shippagan broke off its affiliation with Collège de Bathurst, affiliating directly with the university instead. Collège Saint-Joseph transferred its remaining programs to the faculty of arts and closed its doors.

The publication of the LeBel Report in 1975 led to further changes for the colleges in the northeast and northwest. In 1977, Collège Saint-Louis-Maillet became the Centre universitaire Saint-Louis-Maillet, Collège Jésus-Marie became the Centre universitaire de Shippagan, and the Moncton campus became the Centre universitaire de Moncton. The three campuses are now divisions of the Université de Moncton. Yet another round of name changes came in 1994, when the Centre universitaire de Moncton became the Université de Moncton, Moncton campus; the Centre universitaire de Shippagan became the Université de Moncton, Shippagan campus; and the Centre universitaire Saint-Louis-Maillet became the Université de Moncton, Edmundston campus.

Right from the start, the Université de Moncton offered a range of programs, such as bachelor's degrees in science, arts, and administration. Thanks to substantial government funding, the university has had a solid infrastructure from the very beginning, with student residences, buildings for the different faculties and a library all constructed in the early days. An arena, sports centre and new faculties were added later. Today, the Université de Moncton offers many different programs, including bachelor's degrees in nursing, education and engineering, in addition to the traditional programs.


University of New Brunswick

The University of New Brunswick was the first public university to be established in North America. This English-language university was founded by Loyalists who fled the United States after the American War of Independence (1775-1783). The Loyalists, who had a fervent interest in education, signed a petition before heading north, demanding that a college be founded in their new homeland, a demand they repeated after their arrival. They presented a further petition in December 1785, asking that an academy of liberal arts and sciences be set up.

In 1787, an academy was opened in temporary premises on Sunbury Street, now known as University Avenue, in Fredericton. In 1793, the academy moved to a new building on Brunswick Street, with classrooms, a kitchen and five rooms for boarders. The students were introduced to the classical curriculum, including English, Latin and religion.

The Academy of Liberal Arts and Sciences did not receive an official government charter until 1800, when it became the College of New Brunswick. All students and professors were required to be Anglicans. To get the college off to a good start, the province ceded nearly 6,000 acres of land as a hunting ground for students and staff. All the white pines on the land were reserved for the Royal Navy. In 1812, the government gave the college permission to operate a ferry on the Saint John River and keep the profits, on the proviso that a penny a year be paid to His Majesty the King.

When financial and other problems plagued the college, the administration requested a royal charter bearing the official seal of Great Britain. The new charter was granted on December 15, 1828. The newly named King's College remained under Anglican administration until 1846, but the college was open to the entire population of New Brunswick regardless of religious affiliation, so that young men who did not profess the Anglican faith no longer had to go to the United States to get an education. The college also received increased government funding because it was now serving a larger segment of the provincial population. The college moved into the Arts Building, which still stands today on the hill in Fredericton, in January 1829. The first three graduates received their degrees on February 21, 1829.

In 1859, an act was passed by the Legislative Assembly to set up the University of New Brunswick, which spelled the end of King's College. The new university was completely secular, casting aside the ancient Anglican traditions on which its predecessors had been founded. The University of New Brunswick included faculties of arts, science and engineering - the first in British North America. The faculty of forestry was added in 1908 and the faculty of law in 1923. In 1885, the University of New Brunswick admitted women for the first time. The first female graduate was Mary K. Tibbits, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1889.

In the 1920s, William Maxwell Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, became the university's principal financial supporter. He set up a bursary fund in 1920 to help those who wished to study in the province or elsewhere. Seven entrance bursaries were made available to University of New Brunswick students. In 1947, Lord Beaverbrook offered 10 bursaries for New Brunswickers who wished to study in London, England. He also had a men's residence constructed and named it after his wife, as well as a magnificent gymnasium and the Bonar-Law Library, which contained more than 15,000 volumes and two collections of Lord Bennet and Bonar Law's documents. Finally, Lord Beaverbrook commissioned the construction of the Maggie Jean Chestnut House, a women's residence. His contributions along with the growing interest of the provincial government enabled the University of New Brunswick to develop its infrastructures, programs and research facilities. Today, the University of New Brunswick is the largest university in the province, with a second campus in Saint John in the southern part of the province.


St. Thomas University

The foundation of St. Thomas University reflected an important Catholic tradition in New Brunswick. Some regions, such as the Miramichi, had long been home to an English-speaking Catholic community of immigrants, most of whom had come from Ireland. At the time, there were some educational institutions that had been founded by Loyalists and by Acadian Catholic communities, but no English-language Catholic colleges.

In 1860, after several previous attempts had met with varying degrees of success, Msgr. James Rogers, the Bishop of Chatham (himself an Irish immigrant), founded St. Michael's College, named for St. Michael Archangel. During its early years, the college had about 100 students and taught Latin and French in addition to the major subjects, which were taught in English. Most of the students were day students between the ages of 10 and 18.

During the 1860s and 1870s, Msgr. Rogers made several attempts to attract a religious community to the college to assist with various aspects. Rebuffed by different communities on several occasions, Msgr. Rogers approached the Christian Brothers in Montreal, who finally accepted. In 1876, four brothers moved from Chatham to Montreal and renamed the college St. Michael's Commercial College.

Unfortunately, the new arrangement was short-lived. In February 1878, the college and the adjacent cathedral went up in flames. In 1880, the brothers who had run the college for four years had to return to Montreal due to financial problems within their community. Msgr. Roberts retired from the diocese of Chatham in 1902 and was replaced by Msgr. Thomas Barry, who undertook the search for another congregation that would be willing to be associated with the college.

In August 1910, the Basilian Fathers reopened the college, now renamed St. Thomas College in honour of St. Thomas Aquinas. The new college started out with about 60 students from Grade 6 to Grade 11. The first year, St. Thomas designated college colours and a college song, constructed new buildings and specialized classrooms for certain subjects such as chemistry, introduced sports such as hockey, and welcomed new professors. Over the next few years, the number of students and faculty continued to grow, and in 1913, the entire college moved to a new, more spacious building. Unfortunately, the college was destroyed again in 1919 and had to be built from the ground up once more. The new college reopened in time for students to start classes in the fall of 1920. The 1922-1923 academic year saw the end of the Basilian Fathers' administration, as St. Thomas College was unable to pay them their promised salaries due to financial problems.

In view of the problems that had occurred in the past with religious orders, the clergy of the diocese of Chatham decided to take over the college. There was some turnover in teaching staff following the major changes. On March 9, 1934, the provincial government authorized St. Thomas College to award degrees. In 1940, the college admitted girls to undergraduate studies for the first time. Over the next few years, enrolment continued to climb and college life grew more and more active. The college's reputation continued to grow as well. Various programs were added, making the student body more and more diverse. St. Thomas had now become a fully developed university in terms of both infrastructure and programs of study.

The 1962 release of the Deutsch Report on higher education in New Brunswick also affected St. Thomas University. The report suggested that the university be transferred to Fredericton, home of the University of New Brunswick. Opinions were divided on the matter, with some feeling that the move would harm the university as it would spell the end of such programs as engineering and nursing and could mean the end of any potential advancement. In addition, the university had become an important part of life in Chatham over the years.

Nonetheless, St. Thomas University did move to Fredericton in the summer of 1964, and classes started in September 1964 on the new campus adjacent to the University of New Brunswick. Students began their school year on a campus that was not yet finished, with some buildings still under construction. The move led to some changes in the teaching staff and gave fresh impetus to college life. Several new clubs and societies were formed or re-formed. St. Thomas set up a theatre troupe, a music group, a winter carnival, a literary circle and other extracurricular clubs and activities. Students now had the opportunity to get involved in sports, including hockey, football and basketball.

Today, St. Thomas University is known for its excellent programs in the arts, journalism, social work and education. The university now has nearly 3,000 students and enjoys an international reputation.


Mount Allison University

The history of Mount Allison goes back to a set of silver spoons. Towards the end of the 18th century, a family of Irish farmers of modest means invited the local tax collector to dinner and set the table with their prized silver spoons, a gift from a friend. They were informed that if they could afford silver spoons, they could afford to pay more taxes. Outraged, the Allisons decided to leave Ireland and emigrate to Canada. A century later, Charles Frederick Allison, the grandson of the first Allison to come to Canada, founded Mount Allison University in southeastern New Brunswick. The famous silver spoons are still on display in the main university library.

In June 1839, Allison suggested to the Wesleyan Methodists that an English-language school be built in the Sackville area. Allison offered to erect a building to be used for classrooms and promised to contribute operating funds of 100 pounds a year for 10 years. The church accepted his offer, and in 1843, Wesleyan Academy, the precursor to Mount Allison University, welcomed its first students. Nine years later, a branch institution for girls, known as the Ladies' College, was opened. It is interesting to note that Mount Allison was the first university in the British Empire to grant a bachelor's degree to a woman - Grace Annie Lockhart, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1875. It was also the first university in Canada to grant a Bachelor of Arts degree to a woman.

In 1862, Wesleyan Academy received permission from the provincial government to grant degrees. The name was changed to Mount Allison Wesleyan College, and the first graduates received their degrees the following year. In 1886 it became Mount Allison College, and in 1913, Mount Allison University, reflecting its new status. In 1946 and 1953, the administration decided to close the Ladies' College and the Boys' Academy respectively, both of which had been in operation for nearly a century as distinct parts of Mount Allison.

Mount Allison students have always enjoyed the benefits of an active college life, including such extracurricular activities as theatre, music and sports. The student body and professorial ranks have continued to swell ever since 1839, and today the university enjoys an excellent reputation from coast to coast.


New Brunswick Community College

New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) was formed by the provincial government in 1972 to offer post-secondary non-academic training to the entire population of the province. The NBCC is a bilingual network of 11 campuses scattered around the province. Five campuses deliver programs in French and six in English.

The Bathurst campus, which was opened in 1975, is located on the premises of the old Collège du Sacré-Coeur and Collège de Bathurst. It offers specialized training in technology, with French as the language of instruction. The Edmundston campus offers training in French in two communities in the northwest of the province, Edmundston and Grand Falls. The college provides technical and vocational training in engineering, agricultural science, biotechnologies, tourism, health sciences, office administration, information technology and business administration. The Campbellton campus (also French-language) offers training in health care, community services, secretarial practice and woodworking. The Dieppe campus was opened in 1981 after the 1975 release of the LeBel Report, which recommended that a technical training school be set up in southeastern New Brunswick. This campus provides training in information technology, administration and business, applied arts and communication, industrial mechanics, correction services and health care. The Acadian Peninsula campus is the latest addition to the French-language network. Founded on April 1, 2000, the college offers training in business technology and information technology, as well as maritime professions. This is NBCC's only virtual campus, offering distance courses. The New Brunswick School of Fisheries, founded in 1959, joined the campus when it was set up.

The English-language colleges also offer training in a wide range of fields. The Moncton campus provides training in business administration, civil and information technologies, metals and machinery. The St. Andrews campus specializes in hospitality and tourism, technology and marine sciences. The Saint John campus, which was opened as a technical school in 1963, now offers training in various fields. The Miramichi campus provides training in business administration, community services, applied arts, animation, natural resource management and industrial mechanics. Woodstock College, formerly known as the Carleton County Vocational School, opened in 1919 and now offers courses in a range of fields. Last but not least, the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design in Fredericton offers courses in a range of disciplines in the visual and applied arts.

Each campus provides education in a specific area, giving the citizens of New Brunswick the opportunity to study in the official language of their choice. Most of the campuses of New Brunswick Community College are the descendants of the technical or vocational training colleges that were founded during the 20th century.

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