Karen Bertrand, VP Advancement

Vice-Principal Bertrand Reflects on the Power of Giving

When Karen Bertrand, Artsci’94, thinks back to her days at Queen’s, she realizes she could have never imagined she would one day serve as Queen’s Vice-Principal (Advancement) and see the impact of philanthropy on a daily basis.

That impact can be seen all over campus and is a long-standing tradition. It goes as far back as the 1870s to Robert Sutherland, the university’s first graduate of colour. He saved the university, which was in dire financial trouble, when he passed away and left his entire $12,000 estate to Queen’s in 1878. In the early 1900s, funding for Grant Hall fell through, but Queen’s students stepped up to help raise the $35,000 needed to build the iconic campus landmark.  

Over the years, buildings such as the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Richardson Stadium, and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts have dramatically changed the campus and improved the educational experience for students. Awards and scholarships have given many students the opportunity to study and go on to careers that improved our communities and country.  

Bertrand was the first in her family to attend university. It was only with the help of donors that Bertrand (featured in the centre of the photograph) was able to come to Queen’s, immerse herself in campus life, and build the foundation for the career she enjoys today.

Karen Betrand, centre, poses for picture as Queen's Artsci studentAs much as she loved her time at Queen’s, she always knew she was different from her classmates. The Queen’s she knew wasn’t renowned for its socioeconomic diversity, and the opportunities that changed her life simply weren’t available to many others like her.

Times are changing, though. People now understand that different backgrounds and different perspectives on campus lead to richer experiences, deeper dialogue, and better ideas that can impact the lives of millions. Bertrand also says that failing to be inclusive is no longer acceptable – for Queen’s or for any university. 

A Queen’s education can change lives — Bertrand is living proof of that. And on Giving Tuesday (December 1), she wants people to think about how many more lives the university can change by making the Queen’s experience available to everyone, especially those who haven’t always felt included in our community – People of Colour, Indigenous peoples, those who identify as LGBTQ2, people with disabilities, and others.

She hopes on Giving Tuesday, members of the Queen’s community will make a gift and help the university continue its tradition of philanthropy and build a better future – for students, for Queen’s, and for the world.