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Extraordinary women

Scholarships and bursaries that enable education and provide a brighter future for students. Gifts that impact world-leading research and technology. Funds that enhance diversity and inclusion in our classrooms and community. These are just some of the ways that philanthropy has enriched and transformed Dalhousie throughout its first two centuries.

Since its earliest days, donors have strengthened the very fabric of our university, including countless inspiring women whose leadership and kindness has helped to create rich learning opportunities and experiences. From builders to mentors, visionaries to coaches, they’ve each left a mark on Dalhousie and those who have benefitted from their kindness.

The Visionary

Well before she made her mark as a businesswoman and philanthropist, Jennie Shirreff Eddy was a nurse. In fact, her first introduction to Dalhousie came in 1892 when she arrived in Halifax to work at the Victoria General Hospital, just a few blocks away from the university. Soon after, the Chatham, N.B. native would meet and marry Ezra Eddy, owner of E.B. Eddy, a lumber and paper company. After the death of her husband in 1906, she acquired majority shares in the enterprise and under her guidance, E.B. Eddy would grow into one of Canada’s most successful and best-known companies. It was ultimately a fate that would transform Dalhousie.

When Shirreff Eddy decided to turn her considerable talents to philanthropy, the university was one of her first beneficiaries. She’d remembered the place fondly from her nursing days, calling it “the outstanding university of the Maritime provinces.”

In a tribute to the women of Dalhousie, Shirreff Eddy chose to build a student residence. The $300,000 gift in 1920 was one of the largest donations to a Canadian university by a woman at that time. Her vision was an elegant residence that felt like a home: warm and cozy with fireplaces in the public areas, study rooms on the upper floors and a library with plenty of light. Completed in 1923 (two years after Jennie Shirreff Eddy died), Shirreff Hall still stands on the Dalhousie campus: an enduring testament to the power of women helping women succeed.

In a tribute to the women of Dalhousie, Jennie Shirreff Eddy chose to build a student residence. Shirreff Hall bears her name. (Danny Abriel photo)

The Builder

Referred to by many as Dalhousie’s “guardian angel,” Lady Dunn (LLD’67) is one philanthropist in Dal’s history who has left a significant imprint on the university.

Lady Dunn (LLD’67), courtesy Dalhousie Archives

Born Marcia Anastasia Christoforides in Surrey, England, in 1909, she served for many years as personal secretary to Canadian financier and industrialist, Sir James Dunn, a Dalhousie Law School graduate, whom she married in 1942. Unfortunately, her husband died the following decade. Devastated by her husband’s death, she began directing her philanthropic energies toward his alma mater.

The centrepiece of her considerable legacy is the impressive Sir James Dunn Science Building. Not only did she fund the project in its entirety, she also took a direct interest in ensuring its design reflected her vision for a modern university campus. And her generous support for the Law School—including the law library and the prestigious Sir James Dunn Scholarships in Law—was instrumental in ensuring Dalhousie’s national leadership in legal education.

The Coach

Throughout her distinguished 40-year career as a coach, administrator, educator and sports medicine expert, Cathy Campbell’s (BPE’75, MSc’77) Dalhousie links have remained intact—and strong. A stellar student athlete, Dr. Campbell excelled in track and field, field hockey, cross country, basketball and volleyball.

Dr. Cathy Campbell (BPE’75, MSc’77) J.R. Clubb photo

Often referred to as a caring, committed and knowledgeable mentor, she helped many young athletes reach championship levels of performance when she herself was still a student. Just as she did back in the 1970s, Dr. Campbell continues to inspire and lead by example. As thanks to the university that helped develop her skills and set the course for her career in medicine, Dr. Campbell remains a steadfast supporter of Dal and its student athletes. “I want to make sure that other young adults have the same opportunities or better than I had.”

Her affinity to her alma mater and desire to support student athletes is most evident in the Dr. Cathy J. Campbell Track and Field Scholarships.

The Educators

For Nimmi Kanwal (MA’77) and her husband, Teji (MA’72), nothing is more important than access to education for women. The Kanwals spent their careers as educators. “We strongly believe in education and want to help women wherever we can,” says Nimmi.

Their passion for education led them to create the Nimmi and Teji Kanwal Bursary at Dalhousie to support female students. “It is very gratifying to know the (Dalhousie) students are using money for their education and to build a good life for themselves,” the couple agree. “We sleep better knowing we’ve done a bit of good in the world.”

Nimmi Kanwal (MA’77), shown with her husband Teji (MA’72) Danny Abriel photo

Stronger Together

Like these four extraordinary women, there are countless others in Dalhousie’s history who are worthy of celebration. As we embark on our third century, we will continue to share the stories of Dalhousie donors, partners and friends whose support has enabled us to harness the transformative power of education.

Editor’s Note: This article also contains files from Fallon Bourgeois.