Atkinson finance professor’s donation aids nursing students

At some point in our lives, we all need nurses, says Chris Robinson, a York professor of finance in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. A savvy investor as well as a person concerned with humankind, Robinson recently made two meaningful gifts totaling $125,000 to York’s nursing program. These donations will address financial need and reward excellence for current and future nursing students at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Right: Professor Chris Robinson

Robinson’s first gift of $100,000, made in March 2006, created an endowed fund of $200,000 (after government matching through the Ontario Trust for Student Support). The Frances and Frederic Robinson International Bursary and The Frances and Frederic Robinson Undergraduate Nursing Award will be given out yearly to an undergraduate nursing student, and to an internationally-educated nurse returning to school for re-qualification to work in Canada.

“So many people come to Canada with skills they cannot use,” Robinson says, “We need international nurses to use their skills — for themselves and for everybody else.”

Robinson then made a second gift of $25,000 — matched to create a $50,000 endowment — to establish The Marcia Byrne Nursing Practicum Award, granted yearly to one upper level graduate student whose practicum proposal best demonstrates high potential for advancing the School of Nursing’s focus on patient-centred care.

Gayle Mitchell, director of York’s Graduate Nursing Program, says that mature women and men, with families and full-time jobs, make up the majority of students in the program. “This very generous gift from Professor Robinson will help support students as they juggle work, family, and graduate studies, while helping to attract students with the most potential to contribute to health, education, leadership and practice,” she says.

Many international nursing students face insurmountable barriers to practising their profession in Canada, including language barriers and high costs involved with re-qualification, says York Professor Sue Coffey, undergraduate program director (post-RN program for internationally-educated nurses) within the School of Nursing in the Faculty of Health. “This generosity from Professor Robinson will change the lives of men and women who have taken a leap of faith in entering this program and who are trying to contribute to Canadian society while building their lives here,” she adds.

Concerned with the “unsung” helpers and heroes of our community, Robinson also established two unique awards in Atkinson’s School of Administrative Studies. The Atkinson Contract/Part-Time Teaching Prize is awarded to a contract or part-time faculty member in the School of Administrative Studies and is based on student evaluations that recognize excellence in teaching among contract/part-time faculty members. The second award, The Atkinson Research Committee-Service Prize, recognizes “the faculty member who has given the greatest assistance to others in their research”.

“These awards celebrate excellence in teaching and research — something we all value and appreciate,” says Rhonda Lenton, dean of the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. “But in addition they recognize the commitment on the part of faculty members to inspire and support their students and colleagues.”

Like the gift to Administrative Studies, which rewards individuals whose work often goes unrecognized, the gift to Nursing underlines the difficult and important work of nurses while also memorializing two people who had the most important impact on Robinson’s life — his late parents Frances and Frederic.

Throughout his career, Frederic Robinson, a former pilot in World War I, used his expertise in forestry to protect and sustain northern Ontario forests. Robinson’s mother, Frances, held the distinction of being one of the first female mining engineers to graduate from the University of Toronto after returning to high school at the age of 29. “She could have run a mill in a mine if anyone had allowed her to,” says Robinson. Instead, Frances stayed closer to home, making pottery, painting and educating Robinson (an only child) about geology and other wonders.

“I had this incredibly privileged upbringing with these two people who were devoted to me and to each other and who were really clever,” says Robinson. “That is why I give money away, because I didn’t really earn it. I got lucky to be born in Canada, to be born to those parents, and to be given a great education. I owe the money back to society because society gave me everything.”

This article was submitted to YFile by Carrie Brodi, senior communications officer, York University Foundation.