Every morning since 1977 I have slipped a Western ring onto my baby finger. Recently I left it behind in a hotel and was highly distressed because my mother gave me that ring when I graduated from Western. The hotel found my ring and returned it to me and as I thanked them and drove away I began to reflect on all the years of wearing the ring and what it has meant to me. I have graduate degrees from other universities but I don’t wear their rings, I wear my undergraduate ring and have for 30 plus years. I wear it because my mother gave it to me and because Western was the door to my life.
I was the youngest of four and the first to graduate from university. I was not a great Western student. I worked most nights at the information desk in the UCC just to afford to stay and, of course, I spent an appropriate amount of time in the Elbow Room after work. That said, Western began for me a journey of discovering the world, discovering myself and realizing that life is always there in the next moment to be grasped and experienced for all it is worth. I studied English because I loved words and still do. At Western I met powerful women who were craving new roles for women in the world and they opened my eyes to what was possible. Women like Margaret Laurence who I met when she was there, I assume, as a writer in residence.
I remember sitting in her office and listening to her talk about writing and having the honour of her reading my young and untrained words. At Western I became someone and that becoming led me through 25 plus years in the Canadian Community College system championing learners’ dreams of a better life. I came to understand that education is all that matters: to know, to imagine, and to understand is the foundation of everything positive we long for in our society. My real education began at Western, a very foreign place for a rural girl without much knowledge of the world. Western took me in however, and I learned and worked and started on a journey that has led me around the world, through a Doctorate, into the power of education and steeped in me in the quest to know.
Recently, I retired from being a college president and returned to my first love, writing. I am working on a book on education leadership; a subject very removed from what I thought I would write when I sat with Margaret Laurence. I think if my mother was alive she would be proud that I still wear the ring that represents her simple belief that I could do anything. I am not sure the ring will last another 35 years but for now I slip it on every day and simply wonder what I might possibly learn today.
Through Western’s ambitious fundraising campaign, Be Extraordinary, we are raising the bar to enrich The Western Experience.
We are preparing students to become the next generation of global leaders. We are also inspiring innovative learning and igniting world-class discovery to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
We invite alumni and friends to participate in our campaign, and help double the number of alumni who contribute to making Western extraordinary.
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