STU President honoured with bursary fund in her name

John Bragg presented the bursary fund in Dawn Russell’s name. Graydon Nicholas spoke about his ties to STU. [L-R](Cara Smith/AQ)
John Bragg presented the bursary fund in Dawn Russell’s name. Graydon Nicholas spoke about his ties to STU. [L-R](Cara Smith/AQ)
A $200,000 bursary fund was created in honour of St. Thomas University President Dawn Russell, at STU’s Gala Dinner on Friday.

John and Judy Bragg created the new endowment which will be partially matched by government funds. John explained why he wanted to donate to STU when he has more ties to Mount Allison University.

“To a certain extent, at least from a businessman’s point of view, I have a feel for people who have the qualifications for being a great presence… I know her passion for this university and you can’t beat having a passion for the place that you decide to work,” Bragg said.

Bragg said he was “extremely excited” when it was announced Russell would be STU’s president in 2011. Russell earned a bachelor of arts from STU, a bachelor of laws from Dalhousie University and a masters in international law from Cambridge University.

Graydon Nicholas, the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, was the guest speaker. He spoke on the importance of education and critical thinking. Nicholas was the first Aboriginal person to earn a law degree in Atlantic Canada.

“There is no doubt, for me, that education is important… It allows for the liberation of the mind, the liberation of the heart, the liberation of the soul, so that you can in fact, assess what you’re being taught.”

His connection to STU began in 1948. His mother and sister travelled to Fredericton for a doctor’s appointment. Along the way, they saw a bus full of students who she described as happy. It was at that moment, Nicholas’ mother decided she would send her oldest son to school, off the reserve. She sent his oldest brother to Chatham, where STU originated.

Graydon is the only one of his brothers who didn’t graduate from STU, choosing St. FX because of their science program. Despite this, he taught at STU part-time from 1983 to 1999.

“We want our students to develop critical thinking so they can stand on their own feet.”

During his time at STU, Nicholas learned how to accommodate students with different needs. One single mother asked Nicholas if she could bring her baby to class because she couldn’t afford a babysitter.

“I said, alright, you bring that baby to class with you, but only on one condition. Make sure that baby doesn’t ask the tough questions,” Nicholas said with a laugh.

That single mother turned out to be Pamela Palmater, a prominent lawyer, and now an associate professor at Ryerson University. She earned a double major in native studies and history from STU.

Nicholas put forward the question “how do we make a better world for everyone?” His answer was education.
“Education is a life-long learning.”

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