Heaslip scholars ‘do lunch’

Students receiving scholarships often do not have the opportunity to thank in person those donors who made their scholarship possible.

That was not the case for the recipients of the William & Nona Heaslip Scholarship, when on Wednesday, May 13, the scholarship recipients were able to have lunch with their benefactress, well-known philanthropist Nona Macdonald Heaslip, at Glendon Manor. The intimate and personal luncheon was hosted by York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. Also in attendance were York University Foundation (YUF) President & CEO Paul Marcus and YUF Principal Gift Officer Lisa Gleva.

Left: Nona Macdonald Heaslip spent time chatting with the Heaslip scholars. From left: Macdonald Heaslip, Monika Mielczarek, Agyakar Singh and York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

Macdonald Heaslip and her late husband William, a self-made, successful businessman, created the scholarships in 2005 to recognize and reward undergraduate students who are not only pursuing their education but are also playing an active role in their community. The scholarship recognizes that extracurricular involvement and volunteerism are important components of an education. Macdonald Heaslip lauded the international orientation of many of the students’ work. “Bill was always happy that the recipients of these scholarships would bring their knowledge and their acculturation back to Canada,” she said.

The Heaslip Scholarships are among the most valuable scholarships at York University. They are available to two applicants entering their second year of undergraduate study and are renewable for two subsequent years, creating a cohort of six Heaslip scholars at York University on a rotating basis. With a contribution from the University, the sponsorships are valued at $15,000 per student annually. Heaslip Scholarships are in place at 10 universities across Canada at this time.

Above: The Heaslip scholars. From left, front: Monika Mielczarek, Salma Gilani, Grace Yogaretnam, Nona Macdonald Heaslip, Sierra Frank, Heather Cook and Bushra Wali. At rear: Agyakar Singh, Paul Marcus, President Mamdouh Shoukri and Lisa Gleva.

Heather Cook is a third-year Faculty of Fine Arts student, working toward a specialized honours degree in dance with a minor in theatre. In the future, she hopes to pursue a bachelor of education degree and is interested in teaching dance. The Heaslip Scholarship helped Cook get through a difficult financial situation. "The Heaslip Scholarship came along at the right time," said Cook. In addtion to her own studies, she teaches dance and gymnastics as a form of therapy to children with special needs.

Grace Yogaretnam, a fourth-year student pursuing a double major in environmental studies and political science, said the renewable funding that is part of the Heaslip Scholarship has allowed her to fully engage in her work and volunteerism. “I have an interest in policy work because so much of environmentalism is politicized. It’s important to understand the places where they intersect,” she said, adding that the greater focus on her interests afforded by the scholarship will allow her to “better serve the world after graduation.” Yogaretnam is active in environmental issues and was a candidate for the Green party in both the 2006 and 2008 federal elections for the riding of Mississauga-Brampton South.

“Bill didn’t experience campus life himself, which inspired him to create these scholarships. These York students are lively and very engaged in their education and beyond. Their achievements are a wonderful tribute to Bill,” said Macdonald Heaslip.

Right: The late William Heaslip with inaugural scholarship winner Sierra Frank in 2005

"It’s a real pleasure for me to be able to recognize students who are making a difference," said Shoukri to Macdonald Heaslip. "All of these scholarship recipients represent what is best about York. In pursuing both their education and community leadership, they are making real contributions to improving student life and building a stronger community.”

In recognition of other major gifts to her alma mater, Macdonald Heaslip was recognized with an honorary degree from the University of Toronto on June 18. Furthermore, the University of Prince Edward Island awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2006, not only for the Heaslip Scholarships there, but for her ancestral heritage. The first Macdonald Clan Ranald group of 210 settlers arrived in 1772 and started a new life from scratch, literally. “They struggled, prospered and always revered education,” said Macdonald Heaslip. “By the way, most Canadian universities were started by a Scot, including York. Never forget those who built our society!”