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Finding the light

Susan Rollinson, 42, (B.P.Ed.'85, B.Ed.'85) once near death from anorexia nervosa, today lives in Toronto where she continues her efforts towards recovery. As part of that process she is an avid nature photographer and a recognized advocate for the prevention and awareness of child abuse and eating disorders. She is a strong supporter of Memorial and has immense pride for the education she received there.

When Ms. Rollinson received the Queen's Golden Jubilee Commemorative Medal in 2003 it marked an important stage in a lifelong journey that began in an icy darkness. At five foot two inches tall and a "sub-optimal" 88 lbs, Susan has become a powerful advocate for the awareness prevention of eating disorders and child abuse.

As a child she endured physical, emotional, and sexual trauma that cast a self-destructive shroud over her emotional and physical well-being. So scarred was she in fact that, despite her abilities as an avid athlete, a talented distance runner at Memorial and an outstanding academic, she was plagued by self-doubt and relentless inner emotional turmoil. This led to 24 years of anorexia nervosa and self-destruction. It even drove her on one occasion to a suicide attempt.

While in the grips of such fierce emotional torment and physical deterioration, Susan managed to complete her education and teach in Labrador West for almost a decade. This is a testament to the strength of her spirit. But her body finally collapsed while she was studying for her Master's at the University of Windsor (MHK'95) in the early 1990's. Ironically this collapse occurred while she was absorbed in research about the enigma of her illness, determined to understand the causes and to advocate for its prevention in society.

Eventually, near death, she left Wabush permanently to seek help. Frustrated by the endless cycle of hospital admissions and relapses, feeling alone and hopeless, she looked deeper inside herself. There she found enlightening hidden talents. Among them were photography and the ability to inspire others. Nature photography became a boundless creative outlet for her emotions. Her captivating public voice allowed her to educate and empower others. She took part in two internationally acclaimed documentaries on eating disorders including the CBC's The Passionate Eye presentation of Through Thick and Thin in 2001.

Ms. Rollinson contributes her strengths and abilities largely to Memorial. In gratitude, she has made a bequest to endow a permanent designated scholarship for students who plan to teach physical education. It's for her a way to make the world a better place. She remembers fondly and stays in contact with several of her mentors and professors who encouraged her to see her strengths. No matter how ill her body became, she said, nothing could take away her knowledge, "I value my education more than anything in the world. Memorial taught me how to find the tools to survive and how to share those strengths with other people."