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Project Hero has close ties to Memorial

By Mandy Cook

While Memorial’s Chancellor and retired general Rick Hillier is currently at the forefront of a national campaign to encourage Canadian universities to provide tuition bursaries to the children of fallen Canadian soldiers, former Memorial University President Eddy Campbell is reluctant to claim the movement as a “Memorial idea.”

“Chancellor Hillier talked to me and I took it to the Board of Regents, and we jumped all over it,” said Dr. Campbell. “We may have been the first to approve it, but there are other universities on board as well. I’m proud our university stepped forward.”

Project Hero is a four-year undergraduate scholarship program for any child who has lost a parent in the Canadian Forces killed in action in the Afghanistan conflict. Starting in September, bursaries will be dispersed at Memorial University, the University of Ottawa, the University of Windsor, the University of Calgary and Concordia University.

Chancellor Hillier and Ontario businessman Kevin Reed have been championing the cause in recent months, with the ultimate aim of every Canadian university signing on.

Memorial’s Board of Regents approved the scholarship program in early July. Despite Dr. Campbell’s reticence to assert Memorial’s ownership of Project Hero, he does say the program has a special resonance here.

“The fact that Memorial University was founded in memory of those who fell at the battle of Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916, and that it says on a plaque in the lobby of the Arts and Administration Building, ‘That in freedom of learning their cause and sacrifice might not be forgotten,’ really captures, I think, the essence of why the bursary was created,” said Dr. Campbell.

While some criticize the program’s close association with a controversial war, Dr. Campbell said he is unaware of anyone who doesn’t feel strongly that Canadian soldiers are striving to help a country in great need under very difficult circumstances.

Meantime, Dr. Campbell said he hopes Project Hero will provide those serving in Afghanistan a sense of comfort and peace of mind regarding their children’s future, and open doors to the children themselves in order to make good choices into adulthood.

Ideally, if every Canadian university commits to the cause, Dr. Campbell said it would demonstrate what he’s felt from the start.

“It would illustrate that Project Hero is a really good idea.”