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You can really make a difference

You can really make a difference

Taking a chance, doing something that’s outside your comfort zone – and that may include giving to your alma mater – often yields greater than expected benefits.

He was my oldest friend from Queen’s. We lived on the same floor at Morris Hall during first year, and then in the same apartment after that. Bob was a ­native French-speaking Quebecer who ­attended Queen’s because his parents felt that being fluent in both official languages was consistent with Canadian values and would help Bob succeed in business. He would rather have stayed at home, in his comfort zone, but he saw the wisdom of his parents’ wishes. 

Nancy and Doug McFaddenNancy and Doug McFadden

After graduation, we attended each other’s wedding, and then our lives became so busy that get-togethers became less and less frequent.

Bob became a successful businessman in Quebec and was president of his business’s national industry association as the group’s only fluent English-speaking Quebecer. His father’s advice paid off. My own job took my wife Nancy (Gale), Artsci’74, Ed’76, and me overseas for more than 20 years.

Out of the blue one day, I received an invitation from his brother to attend Bob’s 50th birthday celebration in Montreal. It was a total surprise to him when Nancy and I came to the event from England, where we were living at the time. That rekindled our friendship. For the next few years, we saw each other as couples either at our home in England and then Connecticut or at Bob’s in La Belle Province. 

The phone call from his son informing me of Bob’s death was a shock. A massive heart attack at age 54 is simply unfair.

For some months, Nancy and I thought about how we might be able to honour Bob and recognize the importance that a Queen’s education had played in his ­success. At the same time, having lived overseas for many years, we had become passionate advocates of international ­experience. We decided to establish an ­international exchange award that would provide support for two third-year Queen’s students each year (one from Business and another from Arts and Science) to study abroad – an opportunity that many faculties at Queen’s endorse. 

It has been five years since we created the award, and we continue to savour the opportunity that it offers both the students and ourselves. Students have reached outside their comfort zones to engage in an ­international arena, thus strengthening Queen’s ties to the world. And, through these wonderful students we have reconnected to significant and fascinating new trends at our alma mater. 

As a Queen’s alumnus, I encourage you to reach outside your comfort zone. If you aren’t already a donor, support Queen’s in whatever way you can. It really can make a ­difference. 

Toronto residents Nancy and Doug McFadden are the parents of Erin McFadden, Artsci’06, and D’arci McFadden, Artsci’10.

[Queen's Alumni Review 2011-4 cover]