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Student recipients of the Toronto Eglinton Rotary Club/Dr. Robert McClure Award stand with representatives from Ryerson University and the Toronto Eglinton Rotary Club.
Goodwill is contagious and, much like the wheel that has been the symbol of the Rotary Club since 1905, a good work often comes full circle.
That is the case with the creation of the new Supporting Aboriginal Graduate Enhancement (SAGE) Award. Established by a generous donor through the Toronto Eglinton Rotary Club, the award was created to encourage Indigenous students to pursue graduate studies and increase the number of Indigenous peoples entering careers in academia.
The $75,000 gift will be matched by the President’s Awards to Champion Excellence (PACE), a priority scholarship program initiated by President and Vice-Chancellor Mohamed Lachemi for students from underrepresented groups at Ryerson University.
The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, made the gift as a way to respond to one of the 94 Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and pay forward a kindness she received over 40 years ago. As the recipient of a Rotary International Scholarship, she was able to travel from Denmark to North America to pursue post-secondary education. Making the most of the opportunity, the woman went on to complete her doctorate in the United States and take a faculty position at the University of Toronto.
In addition to the SAGE Award, the donor extended the Toronto Eglinton Rotary Club/Dr. Robert McClure Award in Health Science. Originally established in 1985 in honour of the late Dr. McClure — an outstanding humanitarian, gifted surgeon and member of the Toronto Eglinton Rotary Club — the award now supports Indigenous students pursuing a degree in a Health Science program at Ryerson. Prior to this extension, the award was renewed in 2016 for five years. These new funds extend the awards for another five years and increase the amount to $3,000 per recipient.
“We hope these awards increase awareness, make change, and make a difference in the lives of recipients so they can make an impact in their communities,” says Nilam Bedi, president-elect of the Toronto Eglinton Rotary Club and chair of the club’s foundation.
“We regenerated the McClure awards about four years ago,” says Walter Wells, former president of the Toronto Eglinton Rotary Club and a Rotarian since 1989. “All of us felt Indigenous people deserved more than they were getting.”
McClure embodied the Rotary Club’s motto of service before self and, “believed in the power of education to transform local people to develop their own healthcare system,” notes Jackie Scroggie, who joined the Toronto Eglinton Rotary Club after a retiring as principal of Northern Secondary School over 15 years ago. “Ryerson was chosen as a partner for these funds because of its reputation for programs that meld theory and practice,” she adds.
The Rotarians have also valued the opportunities to meet recipients. “It is meaningful to us that they take their time to share their goals, hopes and experiences,” says Scroggie.
Today, Rotary boasts over 1.2 million members and more than 35,000 chapters around the world. The club’s causes include promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education and growing local economies.