Legacy gift helps support aspiring scientists
Camryn Gallagher strives to become a scientific researcher, much like her scholarship’s namesake.
In the fall of 2021, Camryn Gallagher—a fourth-year Environmental Science student from Ottawa—was named one of the inaugural recipients of the Mary Margaret MacNutt Undergraduate Scholarship. One of Dalhousie University’s newest academic awards, the science-focused scholarship was several years in the making and came straight from the heart.
Mary (MacNutt) Werner (BSc’57, MSc’60) of Malpeque, P.E.I. began her studies at Dalhousie in the early 1950s. After receiving funding through the Royal Edward Chapter of IODE Canada (a national women’s charitable organization), Mary began her post-graduate studies in botany at Oxford University. Unfortunately, she was forced to abandon the pursuit of her doctorate when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and returned home to assist her father in running the family farm. A few years later, she was able to return to her passion: science.
After working as a senior laboratory demonstrator at Dalhousie, Mary secured employment as a technician in 1964 with the Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratory near Deep River, O.N. There, she met and soon married a solid-state science technician named Douglas Werner. Born in Sault Ste Marie and educated at the former Ryerson Institute of Technology (now Toronto Metropolitan University) in Toronto, Douglas was keen to share a life with someone who shared his love of science and the outdoors.
“I was much taken with this brilliant young lady,” Douglas recalls. “She was so talented in everything she undertook — she was an excellent cook, entertainer, and of course she was intelligent but modest.”
A lasting legacy
Mary was eventually promoted to a Research Scientist role with Atomic Energy of Canada, and later with Statistics Canada, where she assisted in the computer record linkage of the survival and deaths of workers in the nuclear industry — including her colleagues at Chalk River and in the uranium mines. She also researched and co-authored several papers concerning cell survival to radiation with noted radiation biologist Dr. Norman Gentner. After dedicating more than 30 years to her profession, Mary expressed her desire to retire back home in the Maritimes and the Werners relocated to Saint John, N.B.
Before Mary passed away from cancer in 2017, she and Douglas discussed giving back to Dalhousie through an estate gift, in recognition of the quality education and financial support she received when she was a student. Their eventual intention was to endow a graduate scholarship in science that would live on in perpetuity. However, after arranging for this through the transfer of a life insurance policy, Douglas began to explore the possibility of redirecting some of his investments to make a more immediate impact. In addition to his legacy gift, Douglas made a generous $1 million donation to establish a second endowed scholarship. This allowed him to see firsthand the difference he and Mary are making in the lives of students like Camryn.
Douglas had hinted to Mary that he wanted to name the awards after her, ensuring that her name would live on in perpetuity at her alma mater.
“We both felt that we had to give something back to the educational community,” he says. “I think it made her very happy, and she hoped it would inspire others to do something similar.”
A helping hand for the next generation
Like Mary, Camryn has a passion for science. After graduating with her Bachelor of Science in the spring of 2022, she plans to enter the scientific field, to eventually pursue a master’s degree and become a researcher. Her goal is to study sustainable consumption and help to eliminate unnecessary environmental harm resulting from dietary choices.
“It is rewarding to feel acknowledged for my academic efforts,” says Camryn. “Scholarships have a major impact on the students like me, and I feel honoured and proud to be able to continue Mary’s legacy as a member of the scientific community.”
— Jon Bruhm
Watch an exclusive video featuring a special connection between Douglas and Camryn.