View on Xavier Hall from Nicholson Tower, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. Wikimedia Commons

$8-million donation opens St. FX to marginalized

  • October 29, 2015

The largest private alumni donation ever to St. Francis Xavier University will help bring post-secondary education to more of Nova Scotia’s marginalized people.

The $8-million donation, announced on Oct. 2, has established the Jeannine Deveau Education Equity Endowment — named after the donor — which will be accessible to members of the province’s First Nations and African-Canadian communities.

“It’s a wonderful gift,” said Kent MacDonald, president of the Antigonish, N.S., university.

“The reason Mrs. Deveau has chosen St. FX is not just because she is an alumni but it is because of our long history and tradition of social justice and equity.”

Deveau grew up on Cape Breton Island and became aware of the challenges faced by friends from these two communities.

“These are deep entrenched challenges that are multi-generational,” said MacDonald.

After graduating from St. FX, Deveau obtained a masters in nutrition at Université de Montréal where she would spend 30 years as a professor. And from the vantage point of a university professor she became ever more aware of the challenges faced by First Nations and African-Canadian students.

“That is what I understand has really driven her to make this serious commitment to address those serious inequities,” said MacDonald.

In addition to Deveau’s contribution, the school committed $5 million for the endowment fund. Over the next four years, MacDonald said he hopes to see the endowment to grow from $13 million to $50 million. Of that 80 per cent will go directly into the hands of students from the aboriginal and African-Canadian communities in the form of four-year scholarships, “allowing these students not only to access St. FX but to complete their education with us over a four-year period,” said MacDonald.

He went on to say that post-secondary education is becoming more difficult for some students, in particular from those communities.

Not only will marginalized students have access to increased and dedicated financial support, the school will also invest 10 per cent of the money raised to increase campus support services.

“Once students from these two particular communities come onto a university campus there are challenges that they face that we need to address in terms of support service,” said MacDonald. “We are working on identifying what kind
of services those are.”

This new endowment complements the school’s 50-year-old X Project.

“The X Project allows our students to go into African-Nova Scotian communities as well as First Nations communities ... in order to support students in those respective communities to be more successful in school,” said MacDonald. “X Project will receive the final 10 per cent which will primarily be used to cover the cost of transport.”

And although the endowment is new, MacDonald said the school’s commitment to equality for these two marginalized communities is as old as its name.

“We are now in our 163rd year and we literally have 163 years of evidence that St. FX was rooted in this commitment to the community,” said MacDonald, noting the work of the school’s founding priests. “It is something that separates St. FX from any other university that I know.”

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