Duchesne College was founded through the inspiration and at the direct wish of His Grace Archbishop Duhig, in March, 1937, to provide a safe and welcoming home for young Catholic women from rural and regional Queensland who wished to conduct their university studies in Brisbane. He invited the Religious of the Sacred Heart, an Order founded in France in 1800, to undertake the direction of this first University College for Catholic women in Queensland. It was Archbishop Duhig also who gave the College its name. He said that the name recalled a valiant French woman, Blessed Philippine Duchesne, who was instrumental in taking the Society of the Sacred Heart to America from France in 1818. The name Duchesne, meaning "of the oak" inspired the College motto "Robur in Luce Veritatis". Robur translates as either oak or strength, so the motto reads "Strength in the Light of Truth". The College opened with three students and was situated until May, 1942 in a wing of Stuartholme Convent, Toowong, a boarding school for girls under the direction of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. Then, because of the war, the school was evacuated and the premises taken over by the American Army and used as a base hospital. As a result, the College was temporarily closed.
Five years later, in February, 1947, the College was re-opened at the request of Archbishop Duhig in the suburb of New Farm, based in a traditional Queenslander named "Oakleigh". The College remained there for twelve years, growing to 35 students, before it was established on its present site in 1959 as one of the residential Colleges on the campus of The University of Queensland, St Lucia.
The Blessing and Opening of the “Third Duchesne” was celebrated by His Grace Archbishop Duhig in March 1959, Queensland’s Centenary Year. An eminent visitor to the College, Cardinal Agagianian, showed his appreciation of the significance of the College crest, which he had paused to inspect, by writing in the Visitor’s book: “Vivat, Crescat, Floreat!” (“May she live, may she grow, may she flourish!”)
This has indeed been our heritage. From humble beginnings with three students at Stuartholme School, the College has grown steadily over the years, adding new wings to accommodate rising demand. A major development was carried out to celebrate our Golden Jubilee in 1989, the Jubilee Wing, comprising a welcoming Dining Room, more than large enough to host students and guests, and fourteen en-suite bedrooms for senior students.
In 2006, student numbers had reached 154, the majority of students still coming from Catholic families in rural and regional Queensland and New South Wales. It was clear that the need for places warranted a further building project. The original vision for the College being built at St Lucia had foreseen the eventual creation of a quadrangle by the gradual addition of new buildings. This new project would bring this vision to fruition by linking East Wing and Jubilee Wing. Following much discussion, it was agreed that this new wing would comprise forty-four en-suited study bedrooms, an apartment for a Dean of Students, conference room, common room with kitchenette and a gymnasium, with the entire building benefitting from air-conditioning.
Rose Philippine Wing, named in honour of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne canonised in July 1988, was duly completed in May 2009, with students taking up residence at the commencement of the academic year. Whereas the building itself is already well integrated into the life of the College, it is the newly-created quadrangle which has the greatest potential. A quadrangle clearly adds a further architectural dimension to the buildings which surround and create it. Such a quadrangular area, intended as an environment for contemplation, study, or relaxation, was a feature of monastic establishments and thus of the Colleges that evolved from them. The most celebrated quadrangles, extensively imitated in university and college architecture in English-speaking countries, are those of Oxford and Cambridge. Cambridge University is celebrating its 800th anniversary this year; we have a long way to go to match that but already our quadrangle is becoming an area for contemplation, study, and relaxation.
It is a fitting tribute to the vision of His Grace Archbishop Duhig and the Religious of the Sacred Heart that Rose Philippine Wing has been completed in the year of the 70th Anniversary of Duchesne College and the 50th Anniversary of the move to St Lucia.“Vivat, Crescat, Floreat!”