Legacy of leadership
Alexander (Sandy) and Blanche Colbourne believed in the power of education.
That passion is now being realized through the Colbourne Family Scholarship, a generous gift from the estate of the late couple.
In 2014 the scholarship was awarded for the first time to Sean Kennedy, who graduated in May 2015 with a bachelor of science in cell and molecular biology. He is returning in September to complete a second degree in French. Receiving the scholarship, he says, was a significant boost to his academic career.
“I feel very fortunate,” he said. “The French program that I’m continuing in the fall includes a study abroad opportunity in Nice, France. This really helps lessen the debt load that I’ll have to take on and allows me to focus on the program and get the most out of that experience.”
Creating opportunities for success with young people strikes a personal chord with Sandy and Blanche’s children, Dr. Ann Colbourne and her brother Peter. The siblings see this as a legacy of student development and progress that reflects the values and spirit of their parents.
“Our parents were always loving and nurturing, incredibly supportive of curiosity and discovery,” said Dr. Colbourne. “They lived the values of family, learning and community service. Honouring that through this scholarship is very meaningful to me and my brother.”
Sandy and Blanche Colbourne raised a family and built a life together in St. John’s. He was a successful businessman and community leader, while she was a dedicated homemaker and volunteer. They wanted to remember Memorial University in their estate plans. After they passed, she in 1990 and Sandy in 2009, Peter and Ann began investigating how to best fulfill their parents’ wishes. They connected with the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development at Memorial and created the scholarship.
Set up with an endowment of $200,000, the Colbourne Family Scholarship is established in perpetuity and will award a successful student $5,000 per year with an opportunity to renew for two additional years. Specifically, the criteria for awarding the scholarship recognizes academic achievement but gives equal consideration to leadership ability, participation in student organizations and committees and contributions to the wider community.
Mr. Kennedy is a perfect fit as the inaugural recipient. Last year he held the executive position of director of advocacy with Memorial University’s student union (MUNSU) while balancing the demands of a full-time student. Before taking on this role, he was the Faculty of Science representative with MUNSU and he is also heavily involved with Memorial’s branch of Engineers Without Borders, recently serving as chapter president. In addition, Mr. Kennedy is an active volunteer with the group Radhoc Youth Leadership, a by-youth for-youth leadership development organization based in St. John's.
“Our parents always emphasized getting a good education, but they also insisted on the importance of volunteerism and getting involved in the community, to look beyond ourselves,” said Dr. Colbourne. “Sean is a young man who embodies those values.”
“Mom and Dad exhibited a quiet, encouraging, supportive and enabling style of leadership,” added Mr. Colbourne. “Dad through scouting, Mom through collecting for charities and being a good neighbour. Leadership like that strengthens the fabric of our society. I know they’d be so pleased to see their gift promoting that in a tangible way.”
Mr. Kennedy expressed his appreciation but also noted how the Colbourne Family Scholarship uniquely addresses a gap in student support at Memorial.
“I’m very grateful to the Colbourne family for this opportunity,” he said. “This scholarship is different because it’s focused on students who are past their first year of university. There are far fewer of those and the need is just as great, if not more. What’s also really encouraging about this scholarship is the main priority for awarding it, recognizing how students are contributing in ways other than just academics. I think that’s important.”