Louise Wynne – Chaney-Ensign Bursary Fund

I attended Westdale Secondary School from 1985 to 1989, graduating summa cum laude and receiving an Ontario Scholar’s award. I then attended McMaster University from 1990 to 1995 where I studied Humanities, focusing on Classical studies – specifically Latin and Greek translation. Once again, I graduated summa cum laude and received the A. G. McKay prize in Classical studies, which is awarded for excellent grades. My education continued as I went on to attain my Master’s degree in classical degree languages. In 1994–1995, I attended Brock University, receiving my Bachelor of Education.

My first year at McMaster was a difficult one, as my father had left our family in financial hardship. My memories are a little hazy, but I believe that Dr. James Dale, a professor at McMaster University and a member of the same church that I attended with my family, found out about my financial difficulties. I believe he made an appointment with the financial department so that he and I could investigate the options available for me. It was during this appointment that I learned about the Chaney-Ensign Bursary. He also helped me complete the request.

On graduation, I was hired as an occasional teacher by the Wentworth School Board in 1997 (now HWDSB) and have been a full time teacher since 1999. I teach the youngest students in our elementary school because I want to instill in them the love of learning that I have had since I first started my educational journey.

I would not have been able to complete my studies at McMaster had I not received the bursary. Without it, I would have had to put my educational goals on hold while I earned sufficient funds to pay for my education. The bursary relieved the stress and uncertainty of whether or not I would be able to continue to attend McMaster and ultimately fulfill my dreams of becoming a teacher.

If I could say something to the sisters who provided this bursary fund, I would simply say, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You saved my life and made it possible for me to fulfill my dreams.” I am truly grateful that there are people who are kind enough to share their wealth and good fortune. If I am ever in a financial situation where I can do the same, I will not hesitate to do so.


Lisamarie Perrotte Bristol – Chaney-Ensign Bursary Fund

Lisamarie Perrotte Bristol PHOTOI attended Cathedral High School in Hamilton and graduated in 1999. I was part of the French immersion programme and loved it. I attended York University and got my Bachelor of Science with Specialized Honours in Psychology from 2000-04, and decided to pursue a career in law at Georgia State University College of Law from 2006-09, graduating with a Juris Doctor. Since 2010, I have been practising law.

Originally, I was a Youth Advisory Council (YAC) member at HCF and went on to become a summer coordinator for the Foundation. As the summer coordinator, I was responsible for doing research and compiling some grant-giving criteria for an endowment fund that had been recently set up. It was through this association that I learned of, applied for and was awarded a bursary.

My primary role today is as a wife and mother. I have been happily married for over nine years, and my husband and I have two sons and a daughter, ages six, three and seven months. I am a practising attorney in Metro-Atlanta, Georgia. Right now, I am an Assistant Public Defender, and I handle all sorts of cases from minor infractions such as driving offenses to major felonies, such as armed robbery and aggravated assault.

I was able to use the bursary to help with the costs of my books in school. As a psychology major, there is almost always a new edition coming off of the presses, which made getting used books difficult. New books are very expensive and this bursary helped to shoulder some of that cost.

I was able to graduate from York virtually debt free. This freedom allowed me to pursue my graduate degree studies based on my passions rather than the price tag. As a current holder of student loan debt, not having that extra burden was priceless.

If I could say anything to the Chaney-Ensign sisters, I would say, “thank you for your generosity! Your fund is a timeless gift that will continue to keep giving for many years to come.”

I believe that education should be a right, not a privilege, and bursaries such as this help to promote that principle.


Reed Family – Chaney-Ensign Bursary Fund

Reed Family PHOTO(as told by Ray Reed, father)

A well-intentioned member of the HCF board told us that the Chaney-Ensign Bursary was offered by the Foundation. This information was the lifeline that we so desperately needed. My wife, Vicky, was an outstanding scholar who gloried in being a wonderful wife and mother. She saw as her calling a large family, using her social work training at home. I was the sole provider until our children began part-time jobs, such as paper routes, babysitting, store clerks, junior librarians, etc.

Hamilton Community Foundation entered our lives at the exact moment of our greatest need and stayed in our lives for years.

I am now retired. Vicky is still a wonderful homemaker and the heart of the family. We have lived in the same home for 47 years – a timeworn home in Dundas. We still have no television. Our children have accomplished so much as a result of the financial assistance they received to complete their studies.

Ann is teaching and the mother of six. Colleen is teaching and the mother of eight. Jennifer is teaching art therapy. Julie is teaching and the mother of one. Rebecca is teaching, is the mother of two and a Terry Fox Humanitarian Award recipient. Patrick is a film director and the father of three. Sarah is a teacher presently at home raising her four children. Emily is working at the University of Toronto and the mother of two. Peter is an urban planner and the father of three. Joseph and Katie are both in business careers.

All of our eleven children completed their undergrad studies successfully in large part because of HCF. The bursaries they received allowed them to spend more time on their studies as opposed to getting a second part-time job while at school.

The monies provided by the Foundation permitted our children to dream in a fashion that would have been unthinkable before. HCF opened their, and our, eyes to the benefits of education. We had four children in university at the same time – tricky and exhausting, but exciting and empowering to see it could be done.

If we could say anything to the sisters who provided for this bursary, we would say, “Many, many, many thanks! You allowed us to dream. Not a week goes by without our thinking of your kindness.” HCF proves that good things do happen when both donor and recipient appreciate the purpose of award.


Theresa Noon – Geritol Follies Bursary Fund

Theresa Noon PHOTOI attended St. Thomas More Secondary School and then was accepted into the theatre program at York University, where I obtained my Bachelor of Fine Arts, Specialized Honours. At York, all students are in

a general theatre studies program for their first year and then audition for their stream for second year. I was accepted into the creative ensemble acting program. Along with it being

a very strict acting program, the students were also required to write and direct pieces. Out of the 200 students that were auditioned, I was one of 26 students admitted into the program. By my fourth year, there were 15 remaining students. Upon completion of my fourth year, I was one of four graduating students and one of two that received honours, an accomplishment that I am extremely proud of. I am now a professional actor, director, producer and singer. Thanks to my parents, I was made aware of the bursary.

The scholarship was a huge part of my being able to pay for my tuition at York University. I paid my own way through a very expensive program and the scholarship not only gave me aid in the financial aspect but also in some peace of mind knowing that people support the arts and care about young people’s education.

Each year I needed to supply my marks and a letter from a professor to maintain the scholarship and it was a great way for me to show the Foundation that I not only appreciated the scholarship but also that I was taking my education very seriously.Attending theatre school and obtaining my degree is one of my greatest accomplishments and helped me prepare for my professional career. The scholarship helped make that possible.

I was and still am extremely grateful for the scholarship. The financial assistance helped me achieve my dreams of becoming a professional artist. Thank you for helping make this possible!


Katie Gilmour – Eastburn Fellowship Fund

Katie Gilmour PHOTOI attended Sir John A Macdonald High School in Ottawa from 1979 to 1984, where I particularly enjoyed courses in science (especially biology) and math (especially calculus). My undergraduate degree was carried out at McMaster University, 1984 to1988 where I graduated with a B.Sc. (Honours) in Biology. During my fourth year at McMaster, I took a course in environmental physiology given by Dr. Chris Wood and was totally hooked, so after finishing at McMaster, I went to the University of Cambridge to pursue a PhD in Zoology. Upon completion of my PhD in 1992, I was awarded an Eastburn postdoctoral fellowship to work in the lab of Dr. Steve Perry at the University of Ottawa.

After a second postdoctoral stint, this time back at McMaster in Dr. Wood’s lab, I moved to the University of Glasgow as a temporary lecturer, 1996 to 1998. I landed a “real job” and joined Carleton University’s Biology department as an Instructor. In 1999, I was awarded an NSERC University Faculty Award and moved into an Assistant Professor’s position. Finally, I moved to the University of Ottawa in 2004, and was promoted to full professor in 2009. My research focuses primarily on stress in fish.

My PDF supervisor, Dr. Steve Perry, held an Eastburn Postdoctoral Fellowship at McMaster (1982-1983) and he made me aware of the award. Funnily enough, one of my recent PhD students was also awarded an Eastburn PDF to work in the lab of Dr. Sigal Balshine at McMaster – Dr. Connie O’Connor, 2011-2013.

The Eastburn PDF enabled me to pursue a postdoctoral position that would not otherwise have been possible. That postdoc was a time in which I developed many of the research interests that now inform my research program. Without the Eastburn PDF, that program would look very different and/or I might not have been able to stay in academia – I owe a lot to the Eastburn PDF!

If I could say anything to Mr. Eastburn it would be, “THANK YOU! Thank you for funding a career stage where funding is traditionally difficult to get, especially in Canada. Having independent funding as a PDF allows an early career researcher to focus on and develop her own research interests – it is an enormous advantage to an early career scientist.”


Jeremy Freiburger – Geritol Follies Bursary Fund

Jeremy Freiburger I attended Ancaster High School, which was an excellent school for those who were artistically inclined. We had concert band, annual theatre productions, excellent English and visual art teachers. After attending McMaster for Humanities for one year, I decided I needed to focus on theatre performance and after a series of auditions, I was accepted into the American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York, where I studied Performance.

I can’t recall how I found out about the award – but it was likely through a community connection in the local theatre community.

Now, I’m the Cultural Strategist for CoBALT Connects, a non-profit Arts Service Organization in Hamilton. I work with artists and communities to develop and understand their creative and cultural communities. We specialize in building facilities, programs and resources to enhance the creative community in Hamilton and throughout the province.

Going to school in New York was insanely expensive. While my parents were helping, and I signed my life away to OSAP debt, I was faced with the unique challenge of not being able to work in New York to earn money while in school. Before I left, I worked like crazy to save up some money, and I sold every instrument I owned (painfully parting with my acoustic bass and saxophone). The scholarship added to the resources that made the leap to NY possible.

Going to AMDA and NY at that point in my career was life changing – I most certainly would not be the same person or artist had I not had that opportunity. I met other young artists from around the world, performed in professional productions, and more than anything, I experienced a city where culture and the arts are part of daily life. I attended dozens and dozens of plays, spent hundreds of hours in galleries and museums; I soaked up every aspect of the creative community I could get my hands on. It opened me up to the widest possible definition of where my art could take me.

If I had a chance to speak to those who made the fund possible, I would tell them that they changed my life. Going to NY shaped my career in a way no other experience could have. I would encourage them to continue with their dedication to young artists. Experience is the best education an artist can have – they must go beyond the local and the known to truly find their way. Going to NY set me on a path that has made my life something unique.

The other thing the award might have done was prove to my parents that the arts were not a passing fad for me. It is my calling. The approval by an outside body to pursue this dream likely had an effect on my parents and family in addition to myself. Lots of young artists never get that support – it’s so vital at that age to give youth the freedom and support to explore, especially in the arts.


Jennifer Schiffner – Chaney-Ensign Bursary Fund

Jennifer SchnifferI graduated from Barton Secondary School in 1990, went on to receive a BA in Sociology from McMaster University, and completed studies in social service work and police studies at Sheridan College. I then attended the RCMP training academy and was hired by the Force. As my policing career was beginning I was able to continue my studies with certification in forensic sciences, intelligence analysis, and human resources management from BCIT and SIAST. In 2011, I received a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from University of the Fraser Valley, and currently I am continuing studies in adult education and training at the University of Regina.

Today, I am an RCMP officer. After working in four different postings in BC in nine years, I have just completed over seven years as an instructor/facilitator at the RCMP’s national training academy in Regina, SK. Here I was a primary instructor in applied police sciences, firearms, and use of force. In fall 2013, I will be transferring to Surrey, BC – the largest RCMP detachment in Canada – to assume a ‘Training NCO’ position.

The bursary helped me to balance attending McMaster and Sheridan with working and being a single mother. Without various sources of assistance, I could not have completed my programs that prepared me for my role as a peace officer.

If I could say anything to the two sisters, I would say thank you – everyone has a story that includes personal challenges and hurdles, as well as goals and dreams. Without donors to support award programs such as this, many deserving and suitable candidates would not be able to rise to their full potential.


Michael Hayes – Chaney-Ensign Bursary Fund

Dr. Michael Hayes PHOTOI stopped going to high school when I was 15 and formally withdrew the day I turned 16. At the time, I thought school was a waste of time and I was more interested in exploring other things – sexuality, drugs, music, and the open road. I followed my then girlfriend and her family to New Brunswick, convinced that I was going to marry her. She was much more mature than I was and, when I returned to Hamilton to tell my parents about my plans, she advised me in a letter that I should not come back as she was seeing someone else.

I started working at a local manufacturing firm that made sandpaper belts and buffing compounds for the metal trim that used to adorn cars and household appliances. The work was boring, gritty, and did not pay well. I moved into an apartment with one of my workmates, who happened to be addicted to speed, and I started to inject it as well. I became depressed and suicidal – why work for the next 40 years in a job I did not like and then die; why not just die? That was the fall of 1972. I heard a song on the radio by John Prine called ‘Sam Stone’, about a returning Vietnam vet who died from a heroin overdose, and I became very frightened. At Christmas of that year, on a visit to my parents, my brother who was then six, asked me to read a book about dinosaurs that he had received as a gift. I had great difficulty reading the polysyllabic text and began to cry –I felt so stupid. I asked my mother if I could move back home and, in the first week of school, went to Delta to ask Mr. Earl Lewis (Vice Principal) to let me back into school. I promised him that if he let me back into grade 11, I would prove to him that I would be a different and much better student than the one he had known. By the end of grade 12, I graduated Valedictorian. In Grade 13 I did very well and went on to complete my BA (Hons), MSc, and PhD at McMaster.

I received a phone call from someone at HCF and was told I received a bursary of $700, which was enough to pay my tuition. Much later (1988), I found out that my grade 13 English teacher, Mrs. Ethel Thayer, had put my name forward. I had written to Ethel, and to a couple of other of my high school teachers who had been so important and inspirational to me (Lee Swan, grade 11 Geography and Rob Ireland, grade 12 Theatre Arts) that I had accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Geography at Simon Fraser University. I was eager to thank them for profoundly changing the path of my life.

Today, I am a Professor in both the School of Public Health and Social Policy, and in the Department of Geography, at the University of Victoria, where I am also the Director of Health Research and Education, the Director of the Interdisciplinary Social Dimensions of Health Graduate program, and Director of the School of Public Health and Social Policy. I have been at UVic for three years, after spending 22 years at SFU. 

The Chaney Ensign Bursary helped me in profound ways. It marked the first time in my adult life that I felt recognized for my academic abilities. I was chosen valedictorian by my peers at Delta not for my grades, but for my contributions to the social life of the school – performing in the Christmas Concert, putting on concerts featuring singer-songwriters I had met through the Knight II Coffeehouse that I volunteered at as a way of keeping myself focused when I had gone back to school, helping to promote dances, etc.

The bursary helped to give me self-confidence. Growing up in Hamilton’s Code Red area (Barton and Victoria, Cannon and Gage, Barton and Kenilworth) did not provide much opportunity to meet people with post-secondary education and I was very self-conscious that I did not belong at university. The bursary was a point of reference against my inner anxieties about belonging in an academic environment.

It would be hard to express my gratitude to Genevieve Chaney & Cordelia Ensign. The HFC bursary was a fantastic boost to me. It was one of the central elements that helped me to change my life course. Ironically, in my professional role, I study the origins of health inequities like those at the centre of the Code Red series, and the public policy issues embedded within them. For me, this work is not an abstraction. Rather, it is a concrete expression of my own experiences. Interventions like the HCF bursary can make enormous and profound changes in the life course experiences of people, especially those whose social circumstances create enormous obstacles to getting out of a life of disadvantage. It was and is a great honour to have received the HCF bursary and to have enjoyed the incalculable benefits that have followed. Thank you!


Constance O’Conner – Eastburn Fellowship Fund

Constance OConner PHOTOI did the International Baccalaureate diploma program at Regiopolis-Notre Dame High School in Kingston, Ontario, and graduated in 2002.

After high school, I attended McGill University achieving a Bachelor of Science in Biology and English Literature in 2006. I liked the diversity of experience and education that I got from completing a double major. During my undergraduate degree, I completed a thesis project exploring how fishes adapt to extremely low-oxygen environments. This project made me interested in how animals adapt to their environment, and how they manage when their environment changes, either through natural causes or from man-made events. Pursuing these interests, I went on to complete a PhD at Carleton University, graduating in 2011.

In 2011, I came to McMaster University as an E.B. Eastburn postdoctoral fellow and I have been researching how social behaviour in fish has evolved. I was interested in coming to work at McMaster before I heard about the award, and was told about it by my current postdoctoral supervisor, Dr. Sigal Balshine. As another connection, my PhD co-supervisor, Dr. Katie Gilmour, was also previously an E.B. Eastburn postdoctoral fellow.

My work at McMaster University has been very successful, and I just received an NSERC award to continue this for another two years. I plan to incorporate some of my previous interests into my research, and look at how social behaviour is influenced by environmental change, especially environmental degradation.

It would not have been possible for me to come to McMaster and pursue this research without this award. The E.B. Eastburn postdoctoral fellowship made it possible for me to continue a career in research. My research has been extremely successful, and none of that would have happened without the award. Postdoctoral research funding is becoming increasingly scarce. This award is an incredible opportunity for someone to continue research beyond graduate school, and acts as a stepping stone to a permanent job in research. These types of awards are extremely valuable and very much appreciated by the research community!

I would not have come to Hamilton without this award to bring me to McMaster University. However, I have also really enjoyed living in Hamilton, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to live here.


Anita & Christopher Counter – Chaney-Ensign Bursary Fund

Anita and Chris Counter PHOTOIn the business of complex, long-term change, it’s not often the community foundation hears definitive evidence that its granting has transformed a life. But siblings Anita and Christopher Counter have each reached
out recently to thank the Foundation for life-changing support they received more than 20 years ago.

These two extraordinarily accomplished adults – Anita Counter is senior vice-president in sales and marketing of a leading financial institution, and Dr. Chris Counter is a cancer researcher and professor at Duke University – were at risk in their teens. Estranged from their family and living on their own by 17 and 16 respectively, – with no resources and no support system, their futures were in serious doubt.

“Our growing up was pretty difficult”, reflects Anita, “but the importance of education was drilled into
us, at least. We attended Delta Secondary and applied to McMaster. I got accepted first (I’m a year older than Chris) and I was thrilled. But then it hit me that I had absolutely no idea how I would ever pay for it. The cost might as well have been $3 million dollars, and I was making maybe $7 an hour then, renting a room downtown, helping my brother, both of us just trying to get by. We were pretty desperate.”

A caring financial aid officer at the university made all the difference by suggesting HCF’s Chaney-Ensign bursary. “I didn’t know what a bursary was,” says Anita, “but he walked me through the process.” The bursary was $700 per year – enough at that
time to make the dream of higher education a reality.

Both Chris and Anita are clear that they would not have attended university without the bursary. It would have been impossible financially. Anita also credits the intangible boost of receiving the award: “Where we came from, just having someone who was interested in us was incredible. People don’t realize how much that can make a difference.”

With successful careers and personal lives in full flight now, both Chris and Anita want others to know what an impact this kind of support can have. “That bursary levelled the playing field for a disadvantaged kid like me,” says Chris. “It allowed me to pursue education – the pathway out of poverty for me and many others. I can never thank Hamilton Community Foundation enough.”