18 Sep 2012

Four years ago, my husband Richard (Professor Nutbrown) and I watched with great interest as Barack Obama ran for President. This was a historical moment. Richard became an adult in the 1960’s witnessing the civil rights movement and when I started public school there was one black child and one Indian child in my class. When I finished High School visible minorities made up approximately 25% of my graduating class. And racism, though not legally sanctioned, was most certainly culturally sanctioned. It was not a good time to not be white. This was not right.

So for me to see a black man become President … well I was excited. I remember Richard and I discussing this and he, in true form, looked at me, and his eyes got that look. Those who knew him all know the one. The slight tilt of the head, the subtle twinkle in the eye, maybe a trace of a smile or a smirk, depending on the context, maybe not. But we all know that look. The one that said he’d been thinking about this and was about to share some point of insight or ask you a question that would make you completely re-think the context of what you’d be thinking. What he said was “yes, you’re right but maybe even more importantly because so many people made small donations to the campaign, unlike recent past Presidents, Obama won’t be, and I use the word beholden, though he may have said “in the pocket of big business and corporate America.” Approximately 3.4 million people made small donations (less than $200). Many of these were in the form of $5, $10 and $20 amounts. Together these donors raised $156 million.

It was at that moment I realized two things. 1) This President could have a huge impact on policy, especially in areas close to our hearts like health care, the environment, and economic development strategy-and he has. I expect that he will continue to do so. 2) Small donations can create a big impact if enough people believe the project to be a worthy one.

I have this worthy project. It’s called The Richard Nutbrown Memorial Fund. It is my hope that, (between some larger donations and a mass of smaller donations from students and those just starting out), those whose lives and thinking Professor Nutbrown contributed to will pay forward the favour and together we will raise enough or more than enough to launch this scholarship fund in his memory.

Richard was a firm believer in financial aid for students and he was a critical thinker. The fund will support both these areas. The critical thinking piece is especially important to me because I believe when we see governments becoming less transparent, restricting the press’ access to information which limits the general population’s understanding of what going on, not only in Canada, but around the world, then we need more critical thinkers. We need to encourage young people to question the world around them. This was what Professor Nutbrown hoped students would do in his classes. It was because he did this that on occasion he received standing ovations after a lecture. It is why he was listed in MacLean’s Magazine as one of UW’s favorite professors. It is why he received his distinguished teaching award. And it is why it is so important that we support others to become critical thinkers- just like he did.

It is my sincerest hope that those of you who knew him and those who benefited from his teachings will continue where he left off and you will honour him by supporting this fund. To those who may not have known him, but, share his passion for learning and/or critical thinking, please support this fund. To those who have already donated, please accept my most heartfelt thanks.

To learn more about my beloved Richard (aka Professor Nutbrown) and to donate to the Richard Nutbrown Fund please go to www.richardnutbrown.ca

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