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Scholarship

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Marion Gillan Memorial Education Bursary
Maximum Amount: $1000.00
Faculty: Education
Application Form: Application Form
Deadline: Feb 1
Occasion: Spring Bursary (Financial Need)
Scholarship Type: Bursary
Description: Awarded to a single parent, preferably in Education, who is in financial need. Applicants must be in good academic standing.
Background: This bursary is established at the University of Prince Edward Island by Cathy and Frank Gillan in memory of Marion Gillan, Frank's mother. Marion Gillan was, as they say, a 'born teacher' and believed nothing was more important than getting an education. In fact, she had to overcome many hurdles to achieve this goal herself and made many sacrifices to make it possible for her children. Marion McCarthy Gillan (1911-1999) grew up on a beautiful farm in Green Meadows (near Morell) PEI, the eldest of four children. Her beloved Papa died when she was only five, her brothers four years and 18 months, and baby sister just 4 months. From a very early age, she shouldered a large responsibility for helping raise 'the little ones'. Several times she chose to leave school to help run the farm or to nurse a sick grandparent, but she continued to study on her own and managed to pass the dreaded entranc e examinations for admission to Prince of Wales College where she gained her first-class teaching licence. In her mid-twenties, Marion struck out to see a little more of the world and went to Boston where she worked as an assistant in a wealthy Jewish family. She told hilarious stories of the steep learning curve for a young Catholic girl learning to keep a kosher household. After a couple of years of adventure, the lure of the Island and love of family brought her home. She was delighted to get back to teaching, this time in the one-room schoolhouse in Peakes. Marion and Joe had thirteen very happy years together raising their family and building a business. But in a tragic twist of fate, history repeated itself, when Marion became a widow with a baby in arms, just as her mother had. Tragically, her Joe was killed while flying his own plane. To this day, people recall the dramatic accident on May 17, 1953, when the small plane went into an air-stall above the private air-strip in Johnson's River, crashing before the horrified eyes of Marion and their five childre n, ages five months to eleven years. Married women were not allowed to teach in the fifties, but Marion managed to convince the Superintendent of the Charlottetown School Board that no one would be more reliable than a mother who had 'five little faces looking up at her'. Marion taught thousands of Charlottetown children - first in the all-boys Queen Square School (located where the parking lot of the Provincial Legislature is today) and later St. Jean=s Elementary. Grade 4 was her speciality, but she could teach anyone to read and do Math and had great compassion for 'the poor little souls' who came to school without breakfast, lunch or pencils, often stretching her own meagre income to provide for those less fortunate. Social services were not available in those days. Even today, people remember her as a great teacher who instilled belief and encouraged them to stay in school in a time when many did not. Many who went on to have successful careers, including Ministers of the government and a Superintendent of Education, credit Mrs. Gillan with pulling them through. In the 60's, in the days before English as a Second Language classes, Marion helped new Chinese immigrants learn English. For years her children remember receiving a big box of Christmas apples and treats from these grateful students. In the 70's, teachers were required to have a degree to teach, so she took university courses at night and in the summer - no small feat for a single parent working full-time. Marion ended her teaching career as one of the pioneers of inclusive education, teaching some of the first severely mentally challenged students in a regular classroom. This strong, intelligent, optimistic, big-hearted, witty, loving woman was a powerful positive force in education in Prince Edward Island and in the lives of hundreds of children. By establishing this award, we honour her memory and hope to perpetuate her love of education.
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