Queen's University

Once a 'scheme,' the Ban Righ dream lives on


By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

The Ban Righ Foundation is celebrating 40 years of supporting the continuing education of women, a milestone the organization could not have reached without significant support, according to Ban Righ Centre Director Carole Morrison.

Shirley Brooks-Purkis, former Ban Righ Centre board member, Anne Maxwell, a Ban Righ Centre volunteer, and Katherine Leverette, former chair of the Ban Righ Centre board of directors, were just a few of the people who attended the 40th anniversary celebration on May 3.

“The success of the Ban Righ Foundation and Centre is the result, first and foremost, of collaborating with the local community and the university,” says Ms. Morrison. “More than 500 women from the community have served on the board or given their time, energy and financial resources in many cases.

“The Ban Righ Centre has worked together with the university and it has been a really productive relationship,” she adds. “The university has granted the foundation a certain degree of independence and autonomy that has allowed the Ban Righ Centre to support mature women students in an organic, grassroots way.”

The formation of the Ban Righ Foundation in 1974 required a good dose of initiative and it makes story compelling four decades later. The roots of the story stretch back to the early 1920s when volunteers from the Alumnae Association, the association of female Queen’s graduates, started planning and raising funds for a women’s residence. Their hard work and determination resulted in the opening of Ban Righ Hall in 1925.

The association continued to administer and supervise Ban Righ Hall until the late 1960s when the university decided it wanted to merge the management of male and female residences. Discussions were held over several years and the Alumnae Association fought to keep control of the surplus it had built over the years.

A group of women including Gladys Heinz (Arts’37, M.A.’38), Helen Anderson (Arts’46) and Bonnie Judge (Arts’49) “hatched a scheme,” in the words of Helen Mathers, the founding director of the Ban Righ Foundation, to use the money to support women’s education. Articulate and determined women made their case and it resulted in the formation of the Ban Righ Foundation in 1974.

The Ban Righ Centre at 32 Bader Lane is a welcoming home away from home for many women, especially mature women returning to Queen's.

That commitment to the cause lives on today through the many volunteers and staff members associated with the Ban Righ Foundation and Centre. Ms. Morrison says the Ban Righ Centre has remained true to its original mandate while adapting to the changing times.

“There has been a shift in demographics. There are far more women attending university, and a growth in women seeking professional and graduate degrees. Sometimes those women have families at that point in their lives,” she says. “We still provide student advising and financial assistance and invite speakers to the centre. We just do more of it.”

Mary Ballantyne (Arts'54) is a long-time supporter of the centre. She believes the centre is especially relevant given the university’s increased focus on the health and well-being of its students.

“I read the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health report, and the Ban Righ Centre is already doing a lot of the recommendations. It’s a home with people who care. It’s a place where mature women students can come and have someone listen to them and get help,” she says.

Ms. Ballantyne’s words were included in an audio history of the Ban Righ Centre that was played at the anniversary celebration on May 3. Ms. Morrison aims to post portions of the audio recordings on the Ban Righ Centre website in the near future.

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Last updated at 4:55 pm EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
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