By Norm, Mary, and Monica Mainland, parents, and sister of Michele
In her far too brief 22 years, Michele Marie Mainland exemplified a life well and fully lived. Diagnosed with cancer at the age of 13, she fought to defy the odds and never let illness slow her down. She challenged herself personally and actively supported her community – excelling academically, travelling extensively, performing on multiple musical instruments, volunteering with numerous organizations in Owen Sound, Ont., and Kingston, and maintaining an extensive network of dear friends. Michele graduated from Queen’s with an honours degree in Chemical Engineering in May 1997, in the footsteps of her father, Sc’65, and sister Monica, Sc’96, and was awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) scholarship to pursue graduate studies in Medical Biophysics. In recognition of Michele’s efforts and courage, her classmates voted her outstanding graduate in Chemical Engineering.
When Michele died in July 1997, we chose to establish the Michele Mainland Memorial Scholarship fund to ensure that her memory and positive impact on others would live on. Three of our family had been the beneficiary of scholarships at Queen’s and we knew how impactful that assistance can be in achieving educational goals. In fact, Michele felt so strongly about its importance that she had provided for a donation to Queen’s in her will – so, in a way, she helped to guide our decision!
This fund supports three scholarship awards in recognition of academic excellence in Chemical Engineering (undergraduate awards to second- and third-year students and an award for post-graduate studies) and a medal for the graduating student who best exemplifies Michele’s personal qualities of persistence and cheerfulness in the face of adversity, sense of adventure, tenacity, courage and helpfulness to others, as chosen by fellow class members. The inspiring acknowledgement letters we have received from award recipients outlining their aspirations show that our intent was fulfilled. We hope that other families will, likewise, see this as an impactful way to memorialize their loved ones and help current and future students.
We keep Michele’s memory alive in our home community of Owen Sound, where Michele was so well known, by planting 1000 daffodil bulbs every year at the cemetery where she rests. This project has helped us through the grieving process and also encourages others in the community to do similarly in memory of their loved ones. We also find that it makes people more comfortable to initiate a conversation about Michele: “I was up to see Michele’s daffodils” is a great starting point for the sharing of memories! We hope people in other communities will adopt this idea to beautify their cemeteries and remember their loved ones.
Michele was a joyful, loving person who loved helping others. We’re proud that her impact continues to be felt through her memorial scholarship by providing support to other students as they work towards their academic and life goals.