The little brown house on Bader Lane
The Ban Righ Centre this year is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a home-away-from-home for mature female students.
When Sangeeta Shakrawar arrived at Queen’s in 2010, she never anticipated that her life would change so drastically. Already apprehensive after leaving behind family and friends at home in India, Shakrawar felt lost and isolated.
Two years into her MSc, she had exhausted her money and found herself pregnant. Curiosity led her inside the brownbrick house on Bader Lane that’s home to the Ban Righ Centre (BRC). It was there that she encountered the understanding and help she needed, and it helped change her entire outlook on life.“I don’t have words to describe the kind of love, care and emotional support that I received at the BRC,” Shakrawar says.
On top of that, within 10 days she had qualified for enough bursary money to continue her studies. “Amidst the vibrant and diverse culture at the BRC, I felt like I finally belonged,” Shakrawar says. “The women there motivated and inspired me every day to strive, and to achieve my goals.”
Shakrawar, who last year earned her MSc in Mechanical and Materials Engineering, is one of the many women who have benefited from the vital services and programs offered at the BRC.
Female students coping with the special problems of being older than classmates and often starting or re-starting university studies while juggling family responsibilities, time, and money, find the support, motivation, and inspiration needed to excel in their lives. That’s why this unique campus facility is gearing up to celebrate its 40th anniversary with a special event.
Carole Morrison, the BRC’s director, says that Board members are keen to honour the women who have worked so hard to make the Centre a special place, and to celebrate those who have overcome barriers and achieved their educational goals.
“We’re excited to be marking the Centre’s 40th anniversary,” she says. “It will be a celebration of the community of women at Queen’s. We hope everyone – present and past staff and directors, current students, successful grads, and our faithful donors – will come together to celebrate and to help us ensure that the BRC is still operating 40 years from now.”
The anniversary event, built around the Centre’s annual gathering, will be held in Grant Hall on Saturday, May 3. Morrison explains that this year’s event will have a garden party theme and a new cookbook, Soups for Every Season will be sold. Morrison describes the book as a “treasured collection of seasonal soup recipes.” It also contains the unique stories of students from various backgrounds, recounting their challenging journeys.
Soup recipes hold an important symbolic value for women with ties to the BRC, where a free soup lunch is served every day while women gather to chat and enjoy the meal. “This creates a sense of kinship, support, and community,” says Morrison. “It also makes for a vibrant atmosphere when the women talk about their academic work, different cultures, and their families.”
On campus since 1870, women first won the right to take a few arts courses at Queen’s College. In 1880, four female students were accepted into the BA program. Around 1920, with about 250 women now enrolled, some alumnae (notably Charlotte Whitton, BA 1917, LLD’41), and faculty wives petitioned the Trustees for permission to raise money for a women’s residence. Ban Righ Hall welcomed its first occupants in 1925. Adelaide, Chown, and Victoria Halls followed, all four managed by the Ban Righ Board (BRB).
In the early 1970s, with the first co-ed residence on the horizon, the University merged the administration of male and female residences. What should be done with the BRB’s money? When Helen Anderson, Arts’46, envisioned the Ban Righ Centre as a place of support for women returning to school, then-University Secretary Margaret Hooey, LLD’02, and former-Registrar Jean Royce, BA’30, LLD’68, managed the transactions with meticulous care. They were just a few of the women at Queen’s who would strive to make the Ban Righ Centre vision a reality. Preserving the Gaelic name Ban Righ (“Hall of the Queen”), appropriating the one-time home of Vice-Principal W.E. McNeill (1930-47) and his wife Caroline, who was the first Dean of Women (1918-25), and appointing Helen Mathers as Director, were wise decisions that helped the BRC become an inclusive communal centre
The BRC’s “graduates” over those first 40 years have been determined to change their own world through education, and now they are generously helping others to change their worlds.
To purchase a copy of Soups for Every Season for $20, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Karen at 613-533-2976.
For more information on the BRC’s 40th anniversary, please visit banrighcentre.queensu.ca.