Tears of joy and much emotion greeted the news today at StFX that an $8 million endowment, gifted through the generosity of an esteemed alumna from the Class of 1944, will make university education more accessible for members of the Aboriginal and African Nova Scotia communities.
Friday, October 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm
StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald today announced the Jeannine Deveau Educational Equity Endowment—the largest private alumni donation of its kind in the university’s 163 year history—at a packed ceremony in Dennis Hall.
The gift has the potential to grow to $13 million as $5 million of the endowment is a matching gift to other donations.
“That is a big number. I can’t stress enough what that number does. It has the power to transform lives and impact generations to come,” Dr. MacDonald said in making the historic announcement to loud applause and a standing ovation on the start of Homecoming Weekend at StFX.
The endowment is part of the Xaverian Fund for Scholarships and Bursaries, established last year by Dr. MacDonald with a goal of raising $50 million for scholarships and bursaries.
Dr. MacDonald said he can’t simply thank Ms. Deveau and her family enough.
LEGACY THAT WILL TRANSFORM LIVES
“The gift is a legacy that will transform many lives and communities for generations to come.”
Speaking on behalf of his aunt, benefactor Ms. Deveau, a retired professor of nutrition originally from Arichat, NS, Bill Gunn, from the Class of 1979, said his aunt saw her role in life as enabled by education. She also saw the same opportunities weren’t as easily available to members of the African and Aboriginal communities, historically underserved communities, and wanted to do something to change that, to lessen the educational gap and promote success.
“There were two key reasons,” Mr. Gunn said, noting the real sense that many fundamental components were already in place with StFX’s longstanding social justice history and its long-time successful partnerships with both communities, and the clear leadership of Dr. Kent MacDonald in promoting equity and access to education for all students.
INVESTMENT IN FUTURE
“It’s an investment in the future of Nova Scotia,” Mr. Gunn said as he issued a challenge to others “to join and support and enlarge this noble partnership” as the endowment will match up to $5 million in funding.
“It’s an emotional day,” Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny, Class of 2002, said, noting these scholarships and bursaries will enable more of our children to come to StFX without worry of finances.
Paul Ash, Assistant Director, African Canadian Services, Nova Scotia Department of Education, said this endowment will not only benefit the African and Aboriginal communities but all of Nova Scotia as it helps realize the potential that exists in these communities.
Calling it a momentous day, Morgan Gero, two-time StFX graduate and Grade 5 teacher at St. Andrew Junior School, recalled her own financial struggles and those of her African Nova Scotian peers to achieve a university education.
“I can’t wait to look into the faces of my students, and my African Nova Scotia students and say confidently that StFX values their presence on this campus. They have the opportunity to become the next generation of leaders.”
“I’ve seen the power of what can happen when we work together to make change,” said ceremony emcee, StFX education professor and X-Project faculty advisor Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden. “This announcement will help to make hope a reality.”
HELP AT ALL LEVELS
The Jeannine Deveau Educational Equity Endowment has been created to enhance the educational opportunities for Aboriginal Canadian and African Nova Scotian students at the university level, but also at all levels of the education system.
The endowment has the power to change lives and impact generations to come as it supports a number of interrelated initiatives targeted at reducing the educational achievement gaps experienced by learners in both communities in comparison with the general Canadian population.
Initial initiatives will include scholarships and bursaries, student service support, community outreach, and academic related programming.
This includes a robust scholarship and bursary program for African Nova Scotian and Aboriginal Canadian undergraduate students, students in the Bachelor of Education program, as well as support to participants in programs offered by StFX’s Coady International Institute.
Recognizing the journey it takes to achieve a university degree, the endowment will also support students by providing funding for leadership development, scholar development and skills training programs.
The endowment also addresses the need for community outreach, notably with X-Project, a StFX-community partnership celebrating 50 years of outreach in the African Nova Scotian and Aboriginal communities in Antigonish, Guysborough and Pictou counties. It will help with transportation costs for StFX students to these communities for weekly tutoring sessions and home visits, and work to expand programs that will enhance the children’s educational experience and set their sights on achieving a university education.
As well, the endowment will support campus tours for Grades 7-9 students to give these youth first-hand experience in a university environment.
These new initiatives will be offered in conjunction with the current programs available through the African Descent/Aboriginal Student Advisor offices at StFX, where current programs will also be enhanced to support recruitment and student success.