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A love for learning helps Acadia students

July 4, 2019
Acadia was very good to me and I wanted to reciprocate”

For Ruth Lelacheur (’49), creating the Ruth and Ernie Lelacheur Scholarship in recognition of outstanding academic achievement and financial need is the continuation of a lifelong commitment to education and improving access to education for others. It is also a way to remember and honour her husband.

“Acadia was very good to me and I wanted to reciprocate,” Ruth Lelacheur said, while she was on campus to attend the annual Tully Tea for Whitman House residents. She took that opportunity to meet with the first recipients of the award.

Ruth was born in Inverness, Cape Breton. Three of her siblings also attended Acadia University – her sister Dorothy and brothers Art and Jack. Before attending Acadia, Ruth served in the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women’s Division) during World War II. On entering Acadia after the War,

Ruth met fellow Air Force Veteran Ernie Lelacheur (‘48). Ruth got to know Ernie, also from Cape Breton when they were assigned seats next to one another in the dining hall and in a philosophy class. She fondly remembers talking together through classes. “The dean tried to get us to change seats in the dining hall, but we refused!”

The couple were active Acadia students; Ruth lived in Tully and wrote extensively for the student newspaper, The Athenaeum, while completing a BA in history and English. She was also active in the campus Veterans Club and was the only female member. Ernie lived in Willett House and was an avid academic, completing a BSc in Geology.

After graduating, Ruth continued her education, earning a BEd and MA. The couple enjoyed travelling, eventually settling in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. There, Ruth taught, and Ernie worked as a real estate appraiser for the federal government.

The Lelacheurs maintained close ties with the school that brought them together; neither missing a class reunion at Acadia. Ruth continues to attend class reunions as well as the annual Tully Tea and proudly wears her golden ‘A’ from her time as a school newspaper writer.

After completing her own education, Ruth worked to help ensure others would have access to education as well. She had a career teaching in Dartmouth and was also selected for teaching exchanges in England and in Thailand, where she taught English as a second language to Thai teachers.

The Lelacheurs passed their love of learning on to their daughters Kari and Lisa, who both pursued higher education. Ruth was an active member of her local IODE and spent countless hours knitting mittens to sell to raise money for schools and scholarships. “We built a playground in Dartmouth for one school,” she recalled. “We were raising a lot of money and we would spend it on things that were worthwhile.”

Because academics have always been important to the Lelacheur family, Ruth wanted to create an award that emphasized scholarship while at the same time helped students in need of financial support.

The inaugural scholarship was awarded to three students in the 2018-19 school year, Abbey Miller, Kyla Raaymakers, and Zoë Swinamer.

scholarship recipients

When Ruth made her annual return to Wolfville for the Tully Tea with her daughters, they met with recipients at the Sheldon L. Fountain Learning Commons, the building which was once the dining hall where a young Ernie and Ruth first met.

Ruth was eager to hear about the students’ time at Acadia. Swinamer was in her fifth year of study, pursuing a combined biology and theatre degree. Like the Lelacheurs, Swinamer is passionate not only about her own education but also about educating others; “I am aiming to engage and inspire an international audience. Conservation, education, and wildlife rescue are my focus, and wondering how to best contribute towards changing habits impacting wildlife I looked to my affinity for the arts.” She thanked Ruth for her gift, stating that she hopes “to apply what I learn at Acadia to ‘Eco Drama’ productions, and other artistic endeavours in the future, made possible by your scholarship.”

Kyla Raaymakers received the award in her first year of study at Acadia.  Raaymakers is also in the biology program and plans to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. She thanked Ruth for the award, saying “it enabled me to focus solely on my education during my first year and enabled me to have the full Acadia experience without having to find a part-time job.”

Raaymakers was delighted to learn that Ruth lived in Tully as she also lived there during her first year. She said that she “continues to be inspired by the rich history and the wonderful community of women who have lived or currently live in Tully.” Like the Lelacheurs, Raaymakers has a family connection to Acadia as both her parents are Acadia alumni who, like Ruth and Ernie, met during their time at Acadia University.

“Ruth Lelacheur’s generosity will continue to impact the lives of Acadia students for many years to come,” said Nancy Handrigan (’92), Executive Director of Philanthropy. “The scholarship is a testament to the couple’s dedication to their alma mater and their desire to help others learn.”