Scholarship commemorates Education dean’s impact

Carol Ann Page says she always had a love of learning and dreamed of becoming a teacher. She was the first person in her extended family to attend university. While relying on student loans and working part time, her determination and strong work ethic resulted in a superior academic standing in her first year, and she was selected as a candidate for a foreign exchange scholarship. The opportunity was dismissed at home.

She believes that Dean of Education Herbert T. Coutts opted to support her selection for the scholarship, realizing she had no support at home and what the experience might mean for her and her future. The year was 1968 and she was the first person in her family to board a plane for a year-long educational exchange in the United States. His support changed the trajectory of her life.

Back at U of A for her third and fourth years, an increasingly untenable situation living at home and mounting financial pressures were threatening her ability to complete her degree and embark on the career she’d long dreamed of. She made an appointment with Dean Coutts to find out what additional financial supports existed.

Sensing her stress and the urgency of her situation, Page says that Coutts opened a desk drawer, took out his personal cheque book and asked, “How much do you need?”

With the funds gifted by Coutts, Page rented a room a mile from campus, walking to classes, busing to work and subsisting on soup for the remainder of the year. She graduated with distinction. Coutts certainly may not have known that his support would help her embark on a long and varied career as an educator, starting in a Calgary elementary classroom, moving onto graduate studies and school administration work in Vancouver, while also serving as an adjunct professor. She continued as an adjunct professor at various universities in Canada and the U.S. while establishing herself internationally as an educational consultant. Over time she segued into business and industry, designing and delivering management and leadership programs for numerous sectors. Currently she’s pursuing another passion by working in interior design.

While she never had the opportunity to say thank you, Page has never forgotten the compassion and generosity of the man who twice opened a door for her. She wonders what prompted his support. Did he see potential she had not yet recognized or would come to realize? She has chosen to commemorate his impact by endowing the Dean H.T. Coutts Education Award.

“I think it’s important to pay it forward when you’ve experienced that kind of difference maker in your life,” she says. “I believe there are a lot of people out there who are struggling financially, or without any support at home, who want an education, want a different life, and want to make a difference. I want my endowment to support those people.”

The scholarship will be awarded to a student in any year of an undergraduate degree in the Faculty of Education to support participation in university-approved travel, including international study abroad. “To future recipients, it is my hope that any opportunity afforded you by this award will expand your horizons, broaden your perspective, and serve as an impetus to stay your course. “To all alumni, I would encourage you too to consider paying it forward.”