News and Events

On Campus: 400 stories of hope

June 19, 2014

Written by Mark Keller, director of college advancement
Featured in"On Campus" in the Medicine Hat News

It is amazing what you can learn even through the most tedious of administrative tasks.

My department has been working with two others on campus to develop a new system to align the scholarships and bursaries provided by donors to the needs of students. The process required us to review almost 400 files and contracts to be sure that the data we put in the system was aligned to the expectations of donors.

I set about this task rather begrudgingly; some of the files, which trace to the early days of the college, include handwritten notes, letters and correspondence from donors. It was taking a lot of time.

But I began to notice a common thread in each of the scholarship files. They are all stories about hope.

The most poignant stories are the awards that memorialize a child. I can’t imagine the strength it takes for parents and families, confronting the loss of a child, to transfer their private dreams for a happy future to a person they don’t even know. Yet they have, and so some of today’s students are unknowingly expressing in their success another’s legacy.

There are memorials for adults too. Often, the files we have note some of the accomplishments and traits of the person being honoured. These stories are about continuing a life of contribution, trusting that someone will follow the example set and continue the good work being celebrated.

Some stories are explicit and detailed while others are more enigmatic. For example, we have two awards, based on substantial endowed gifts, which are available to a “Saskatchewan farm girl,” and a “Saskatchewan farm boy.” The range of possible stories behind these awards is intriguing but the clear intent is to help someone achieve their goals and write their own story.

I still think some of the most charming stories relate to Vera Bracken, the teacher for whom the college library is named. Back in the days when presenting scholarships was a personal affair she would come to campus and provide small gifts to every student she had taught in her Grade One classes. That’s a story of hope and accomplishment that we should remember a long, long time.

By the time we had wrapped up the process of reviewing files and transferring data I felt just a bit humbled. There are hundreds of people, organizations and companies that concluded that providing a gift to a student would be a good way of investing their hope for the future.

All I can say is thanks.

Visit to learn more about your college, contact Mark Keller with your questions at or follow him on Twitter @mark_mhc.

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