Robert Sutherland Visitorship honours Queen’s first black graduate
The Robert Sutherland Visitorship program is an important way for Queen’s University to remember and honour a Canadian pioneer.
“It’s a way to ensure the legacy of Robert Sutherland and his accomplishments live on and continue to encourage students to reach their goals. He is a role model who proved dreams can be fulfilled and obstacles overcome,” says the program’s committee member Carissa Hyatt. “Sutherland not only thrived academically at Queen’s but also contributed financially in a way that is recognized in part for the survival of Queen’s as it stands today. “
Robert Sutherland (1830-1878) who was the first graduate of colour in Canada as well as the British North America's first known black lawyer. When he passed away, he left his entire estate ($12,000) to Queen’s and it was the largest donation that any one person had given to the university at the time. It is unclear why he did so, but friends recalled that he often said Queen's was one place where "he had always been treated as a gentleman."
The Robert Sutherland Visitorship program helps bring distinguished experts to Queen’s to talk about equity, community diversity and race relations. The program was started in 1998 and over the years has brought in author Lawrence Hill, Ken Wiwa (Nigerian journalist and son of political prisoner Ken Saro-Wiwa), and playwright George Elliott Clarke.