Founded in 1841 by the Presbyterian church, it is now a nonsectarian coeducation institution with approximately 12,000 full-time undergraduate students. The university has an extensive graduate program and also consists of a medical school, law school, and a business school.
The university's first home, Summerhill, was built in 1839 by Archdeacon George Okill Stuart of the Church of England. The house is now an Ontario historic site and is the official residence of the principal.
Student government at Queen's was established in 1858 in the form of the Dialectic Society which is currently known as the Alma Mater Society.
Queen's University has a rich ice hockey tradition. The university competed against the Royal Military College on the Kingston Harbour in 1886 thus creating the Canadian national sport. Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax, however, have inception fables of their own. Queen's also competed for the Stanley Cup in 1899 and 1906, and won the Allan Cup in 1909.
The university became a secular institution in 1912 and, in that year, Principal Daniel Miner Gordon oversaw the drafting of a new university constitution.
Queen's students participated in both World War I and World War II. Approximately 1,500 students participated in the first world war and 189 died. Months before Canada joined the second world war, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to Queen's to accept an honorary degree and, in a broadcast heard around the world, voiced the American policy of mutual alliance and friendship with Canada. Roosevelt stated, "The Dominion of Canada is part of the sisterhood of the British Empire. I give to you assurance that the people of the United States will not stand idly by if domination of Canadian soil is threatened by any other Empire." Canada during the second world war had the participation of 2,917 Queen's graduates and the deaths of 157. The Victoria Cross was awarded to Major John Weir Foote, Arts '33, Canadian Chaplain Service.
Queen's is among the best regarded universities in Canada: first year students consistently have the highest average entering marks of any Canadian university.