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Spotlight on alumni

The J.D. Eaton Award is one of four Alumni Tribute honours awarded each year, and this particular award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to Memorial University. The 2011 recipient of the J.D Eaton Award is Elizabeth Scammell-Reynolds. During the course of a 57-year relationship with Memorial, she has been a student, teacher, volunteer and much more. In the first of four spotlights on the 2011 Alumni Tribute Award winners in this edition and upcoming editions of the Gazette, Elizabeth Scammell-Reynolds talks with our contributor David Penney about her lifelong affinity for Memorial.

DP: How did you get started at Memorial?
ES: I remember from a very young age thinking that I would go to Memorial. My mother was a graduate of the old Normal School, which eventually became the Faculty of Education. She went there the first year that Parade Street was opened. I got started at Memorial as a student, and became very involved as a student. I was on student council; I was president of the debating society, secretary of the SCM, lots of different things.

DP: And as you progressed throughout your career, you continued to remain involved with Memorial in many different ways?
ES: Well in the 57 years since I first walked onto the campus at Parade Street I have been involved in some way. Either as a student or a prof, or an instructor with Extension Services or what is now Lifelong Learning. Whether its been as a member of the Board of Regents, president of the alumni association, chairing the annual fund, planting trees around the arts building or serving hot dogs to students during frosh week.

DP: What stands out about your time on the Board of Regents?
ES: There are so many things about Regents I could talk about. What I found on Regents was that the elected alumni representatives were very often the strong voices that spoke out. We spoke out on things like salary inequities for faculty and issues around transparency and how important it was for the university to set an example.

DP: I know you are a professional art appraiser. Tell me a bit about how that has figured into your relationship with Memorial?
ES: Well, I took a lot of art courses through MUN, at the time the department was called Continuing Education, and I noticed there was no show for the students similar to what was offered in other art programs. It's important to give students an opportunity to show their work, to sell their work, and to put it out there for the public if they choose to do that. That really prompted me to start the art show. Now, as you know, we have established an annual art show thanks to a wonderful partnership with Alumni Affairs and Lifelong Learning at MUN. And now over a period of 10 years we've given some really talented artists an opportunity to show and sell their work and really have a lot of fun doing it.

DP: Your contribution is being recognized with the J.D. Eaton Award. You knew Dr. Eaton. What is it like to be associated with him in this way?
ES: Well, Doug Eaton was a leader in every sense of the word. He was extremely popular with students. We all called him "Da Coach," of course he taught phys ed and coached all the teams but he was such a giving person. Doug Eaton is one of the big reasons why I've been a volunteer all these years – the other one is Mose Morgan. They were both the type of individuals who were interested in your career and would help you in any way they could. In fact, when I was president of the Alumni Association we started something called the Dr. J.D. Eaton Honour Society. The idea was to give out four awards a year. At that time the Tribute Awards didn't exist and there was only the Alumnus/Alumna of the Year award. We named it after Doug because of course he was the logical choice. Later that honour society would evolve into what is now of course the Tribute Award that is named for Dr. Eaton.

DP: What do you think is most important for Memorial's success?
ES: I think it's a factor of one. And by that I mean each and every individual student. That student, who leaves Memorial and makes an impression on the world and his or her community, will motivate the next generation of students to come to Memorial. It's like a domino effect, where young people observe that if it's possible for me, then it's possible for you.