The Wasmund Family Memorial Scholar Awards

Continuing a tradition of hard work and a sense of community...

The Wasmund family first came to Canada from Germany in 1859, settling in Wilberforce Township, and several generations later descendants of those early pioneers endowed a generous scholarship for assisting students in the Upper Ottawa Valley to attend Queen’s University.

The period from 1858-1890 saw a wave of German immigrants settle in the Ottawa Valley. At the time, Germany was going through severe hardships, the result of the German wars of unification. In Canada, officials were looking to Germany and much of Eastern Europe for immigrants to help settle Canada’s expansive landmass. One of these areas was the Upper Ottawa Valley region, which forms an arc swinging west through Renfrew and Eganville, stretching to Barry’s Bay, and then south to Bancroft in North Hastings.

Included in the early waves of German immigrants to Canada was a farming family headed by Peter Christian Wasmund. Peter came to Canada along with his family, who were originally from near Greifswald, a small city on the Baltic Sea in northern Germany. Peter and his family, which included his 21-year old son Theodor and two younger daughters, settled in Wilberforce Township, near Golden Lake in North Renfrew County, along with a growing vanguard of other German emigrants.

Considerable co-operation and many unions quickly developed amongst the emigrants, as evidenced by the marriage of Theodor Wasmund to Elizabeth Budarick in early 1860. This long and fruitful union produced 14 children that became the genesis of the Wasmund family in the North Renfrew and Hastings counties.

Rocky terrain, limited infrastructure, and the harsh climate made life in the unsettled Ottawa Valley challenging. Hard work was a necessity to meet the exceptional challenges of developing the area and overcoming these hardships. A strong sense of community quickly developed amongst the settlers, as everyone, particularly those in the most isolated communities, had to work together to create new, mutually beneficial opportunities. The relationships between these families was critical not only for their own survival, but for the development of a key part of the Canadian hinterland.

Bert Wasmund, great-grandson of Theodor Wasmund, was raised in North Hastings County and grew up with the same values as his hard-working ancestors. Born to Theodore and Esther Wasmund, Bert spent his early years working on the family farm in Monteagle. Here, he learned through his parents and neighbours of diverse ancestral, cultural, and religious backgrounds, that the key to unlocking opportunities was through the same values as those that preceded him — hard work and cooperation with others in your community. He attended Queen’s University for both his undergraduate and master’s degrees before earning his doctorate from the University of Toronto. Professionally, he has since become a cornerstone of Hatch Ltd., one of the largest engineering, procurement, and construction management firms in the world. Throughout his successful educational and professional career, Bert has never lost sight of how these important communal principles shaped his career. The 

Wasmund Family Memorial Scholarship, set up in honour of his parents,  reflects those same values of the Wasmund family, all of whom possessed a deep love of the North Country, valued hard work, and worked to provide more opportunities for those in their communities.

Since the inception of the Wasmund Family Memorial Scholarship eleven years ago, 32 students have been awarded the endowment scholarship, with each student receiving $7,000 per year for the four years required to earn an honours degree at Queen’s. Twenty of these students have since graduated, with a considerable number proceeding into post-graduate studies in such fields as biology, medicine, economics, linguistics, public administration, law, and music. Many more have found lasting employment in the engineering, teaching, nursing, and social work fields. The scholarship has helped unlock opportunities for students of North Hastings High School, Madawaska Valley District High School, Opeongo High School, and Renfrew Collegiate Institute to attend Queen’s University. Queen’s University is one of the most prestigious universities in Canada, and just like the communities in the Upper Ottawa Valley, is proud of its sense of community well-being and uplift.

From the perspective of the award recipients, the Wasmund Family Memorial Scholarship provides deserving students with the opportunity to attend post-secondary education that otherwise might not be possible. In addition to it rewarding hardworking students who have a passion for their communities, the award also inspires local high school students to consider a future where post-secondary education is achievable. Knowing that financing of a career-building post-secondary education is possible is often the key for some students in the region to compete and excel. Prospective students can apply directly through Queen’s, who responsibly facilitates the application and awarding of the scholarships.

An alumni community has also been created from among the former recipients of the award. This network allows students and recent alumni to reach out to past winners who have begun their careers, to receive advice and support.

Ultimately, the goal of the award is to help the young people of the region to become successful so that just as the original Wasmunds served as pioneers in the development of the North Renfrew and Hastings counties, they too can aspire to make important achievements and be pioneers in their respective fields.