Monday, June 17, 2013

Dr. E. Margaret Fulton's Lasting Legacy

Another Convocation season has come and gone – a bittersweet time of year for us at the Mount.

Everything we do is for our students and while we proudly celebrate as they cross the stage, we must also say goodbye as they set out to make their own mark on the world.  I invite our 620 new Mount graduates to join me in celebrating the mentors, teachers, and peers who have helped prepare them for what’s to come.

Last month, we had the privilege of sharing our Spring Convocation with a number of outstanding women. Poet Lorna Crozier, sociologist Arlie Hochschild, and soprano Suzie LeBlanc (pictured left) received honorary doctorate degrees and offered graduates compelling insights on compassion, ambition, risk-taking and strength. Dr. LeBlanc, reflecting on the Mount’s founding by the Sisters of Charity, noted that “finding your strength, finding ways to make something happen that you really believe in, is the way this university was begun.”

I hope our graduates take these words to heart as they consider not only how the Mount came to be, but how it has remained true to the Sisters’ original intent over the past 140 years. For an example of how our history has been shaped by strength, creativity, and belief, we need look no further than former Mount President E. Margaret Fulton.

While she wasn’t able to join us in person, I am delighted that Dr. Fulton was recognized at our Spring Convocation in her new role as President Emerita, in tribute to her outstanding contributions as the leader of this institution from 1978 to 1986, and as a trusted friend ever since.

Dr. Fulton broke new ground from day one at the Mount, serving as our first President who was not a Sister of a religious order, as well as the only woman President of a Canadian university at that time. In a 1999 interview she recalled how shared priorities with the institution turned an unconventional pairing into the perfect fit:

“The goals and the statement fitted perfectly where I was at that time: my commitment to the changes in the women’s movement, and the development of a feminist perspective, and a desire to provide more opportunities for women to get an advanced education.”

It was her passion for women’s education that drove Dr. Fulton to usher in an era of great innovation at our university. While she’s quick to credit her success to others, it was under her leadership that the Mount made education more accessible by becoming the first university in Atlantic Canada to offer televised courses. Further, it was through her work with our dear Ruth Goldbloom that the Mount’s first major capital campaign raised $3.5 million to fund the Rosaria Student Centre, the creation of the first Chair of Women’s Studies in Canada, and the first Co-operative Education program in the Maritimes.

And just this year, it was a gift from Dr. Fulton that pushed Project TWENTY12 past the $12 million mark, proving that even at age 90, she hasn’t quite finished shaping the future of the Mount for generations of students yet to come.

In my conversations with Dr. Fulton, what always strikes me is the wonderful curiosity and excitement she continues to feel about everything to do with the Mount. She believes in us, she still expects a lot from us, and it is our ongoing privilege to continue building upon her remarkable legacy.

Congratulations, Margaret, and thank you.

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