Queen's 175th Anniversary

Queen's University Queen's University

[Queen's University Douglas Library]
[Queen's University Douglas Library]
Celebrating Queen's 175th Anniversary

The World Record Q

September 6, 2016
Decade: 2010s
[record breaking Q]

More than 175 years ago, a group of concerned Kingstonians gathered together in St. Andrew’s Church to devise a plan. With the help of an up-and-coming lawyer named John A. MacDonald, they wanted to petition the government to create a new college. In 1841, their wish was granted, and Queen’s College was created through a royal charter from the court of Queen Victoria.

Nearly two centuries later, Queen’s has grown into a thriving university, though it’s changed considerably from what the founders imagined. In its 175 years, it has switched from a college to a university, welcomes students from around the world and has grown to be one of Canada’s top research and teaching universities.

This year, as the university and its community are celebrating those 175 years, Queen’s decided to do something big —bigger than anyone had ever done before. On Sept. 6, 2016, thousands of people gathered together on Nixon Field to break the Guinness World Record for the largest human letter.

The event took its inspiration from a photo found in the university’s archives. Taken by Jack Chiang from the Kingston Whig-Standard, it depicts more than 100 football players on Richardson Stadium field in the rough shape of a Q. The athletes were about to start their two-week training camp in August of 1985 and wanted to show off their school spirit. Now, 31 years later, students, staff, faculty, alumni and members of the community came out to restage at the photo, but this time, much bigger.

Beating the record would be no mean feat. The previous holder, Dell Technologies in Texas, had gathered together 2,166 people for their record. Queen’s was intent on not just beating that number, but also surpassing it. After checking the capacity of Nixon Field, and mapping out the shape of the Q, organizers put out the call for people in the community to participate.

The community responded. On a sunny afternoon on Sept. 6, 2016, 3,373 people donned yellow T-shirts and gathered together on the field as a Guinness official confirmed the tally. Their numbers pushed the circumference of the Q to an impressive 140 metres, smashing the previous record by more than 1,200 people.

The mood was ecstatic when the crowd learned their attempt had been a major success.

“I might have a sunburn, but it was worth it,” Jasper Haighton, Sc’20, told the Gazette. “It was kind of cool to come together as a community and do something that will be remembered in history.”

Photo by Bernard Clark


The historical content of this site was curated by a committee of faculty and staff with submissions from the broader Queen’s community.
These moments are not intended to represent an exhaustive history of the university, but rather significant sign posts in its development.
Special thanks go to University Historian Duncan McDowall for his contributions.
Many thanks also to the people of Queen's University Archives for their support of this anniversary project.
Have feedback about the moments? Please contact qu175@queensu.ca