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Ottawa celebrates a decade of affinity


From left, Max Keeping, Mary Walsh and Chancellor Rick Hillier at the Affinity Dinner in Ottawa.

By David Penney

Almost 400 alumni and friends gathered in Ottawa Nov. 30 for a celebration of all things Memorial University and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the role of emcee, Mary Walsh provided her trademark quick wit, while Grand Bank’s own Max Keeping, former vice-president of news and public affairs, CJOH/CTV Ottawa - Ambassador to the Community, delivered an inspiring keynote address based on his lengthy career of philanthropic experience.

Tom Bursey is the chair of the Ottawa Affinity organizing committee and was delighted with the event.

“This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa Affinity Dinner, and for that reason it was extra special,” said Mr. Bursey. “Max Keeping’s words were very appropriate, because the success of this event is all about that strong connection to our community of Memorial alumni and friends.”

When asked if he could have predicted that the Ottawa event would lead to annual affinity dinners across Canada and in London, England, Mr. Bursey’s response was matter-of-fact.

“To watch this event grow, and to witness the success of other affinity dinner events has been incredible, but I don’t think I would say that I’m surprised. I think we’re all very aware of the dedication and determination that emerges when the focus is Memorial University. I think that’s true in Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto, Halifax or London.”

The event also marked the first affinity dinner for Memorial’s president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Gary Kachanoski. He commented on the importance of Memorial’s relationship with the community.

“That connection is one of the things that attracted me to Memorial. Where other institutions struggle to build a bridge to their communities, at Memorial, it is not just a standard aspiration, it’s a core value,” he noted during his opening remarks.

“The mission of Memorial University recognizes its special obligation to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s written right into the Memorial University Act, and most importantly the faculty, staff, students and alumni are proud of this obligation,” Dr. Kachanoski said.

Dr. Penny Blackwood, director of Alumni Affairs and Development, put it in perspective.

“Our students are consistently establishing themselves among the best in the country, and Memorial’s ability to enable that success would not be possible without the support of our alumni. Contributions to scholarships, like those generated by affinity NL dinners, can be life changing for students – and they pay it forward by making a direct impact on our province.”

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