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Memorial scholarship to honour rural developer

By Rebecca Cohoe

The first time that Sean Power, then mayor of Buchans, met Dave Curran, he expected yet another educated but out-of-touch academic with little real understanding of the challenges faced by rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

And Mr. Curran, then the acting head of Memorial University Extension Services, was preparing to deliver some bad news about a community project Mr. Power had been pulling for: it was about to get cut.

Looking back, Mr. Power chuckles at how wrong they both were. Mr. Power soon found that that Mr. Curran actually knew his stuff. Upon learning more about the potential impact of the community project, Mr. Curran decided to reverse his decision, allowing the project to move forward to considerable success.

When Mr. Curran passed away this June after a lengthy illness, it didn't take long for his friends and former colleagues across the province to start telling stories, remembering his many accomplishments and contributions, all in the name of a sustainable and healthy rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

"He had a wealth of knowledge," recalled Mr. Power. "He really understood who we are as a people, and how we came to be who we are. It never ceased to astonish and amaze me."

Mr. Curran's dedication to his family is another thing that stayed with Mr. Power.
"He adored his family, both as a unit and individually. I never met him when he didn't talk about his wife and each of his children. He was always very proud and very supportive, more so than just about anyone I've ever met," Mr. Power remembered.

Al Hawkins, the mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor, echoed Mr. Power's praise, calling Mr. Curran "a super person", and recalling Mr. Curran's sense of vision. He first met Mr. Curran while volunteering for the Exploits Valley Regional Economic Development Board. The board had just hired Mr. Curran as executive director, having been impressed by both his knowledge of the province and his forward-thinking approach.

"Dave was a real visionary. These days, all municipalities are required to do Integrated Community Sustainability Plans. Dave was thinking that way years and years ago. As we were working through situations, he always talked about the sustainability of communities, about creating capacity and building on existing strengths," Mayor Hawkins remembered.

According to those who worked with him, many of the best aspects of Mr. Curran's personality were the same ones that made him such a successful advocate for the rural regions of this province.

"Dave was a straight-shooter who didn't suffer fools lightly, but under the cutting wit was a truly humane person. He cared for the underdog, whether it was a person or a community, and I think that's what drove his lifetime of contribution," explained Dr. Rob Greenwood, director of the Harris Centre and long-time friend and collaborator.

According to Dr. Greenwood, Mr. Curran's impact on the province extends far beyond the communities he supported. Along with shaping regions across the province, Mr. Curran's mentorship influenced, and will continue to influence, many of this province's regional development professionals.

"I recently heard a radio interview with a music teacher who brought up the idea that just like you can have a family tree, you can also have a learning tree, a knowledge inheritance that is passed along from generation to generation. Well, I didn't know it at the time, but when I was working with him, I was actually being apprenticed. Now, I'm part of the learning tree that runs through Dave."
In recognition of Mr. Curran's contribution to rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and in order to continue growing that learning tree, the Harris Centre, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and the Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Economic Development Association are collaborating with Memorial University in the establishment of the David Curran Rural Development Memorial Scholarship.

Contributions to the scholarship fund are now being accepted.

If you're interested in learning more, please contact Alumni Affairs at Memorial, 1-709-864-4354. Cheques may be sent to Alumni Affairs, 20 Lambe's Lane, St. John's, NL A1C 5S7.

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