The Rankin sisters

By Mark Campbell

Halifax criminal lawyer Stan MacDonald (LLB’87) says Raylene Rankin wasn’t the most outspoken student during their Dalhousie Law School days. Coming from a small Cape Breton community, she felt a little intimidated when professors called on her to answer a question in class, he recalls.

“But ask her to sing and she had a totally different aura. She’d take the stage and sing her heart out.”

It may be hard for fans of the Rankin Family to picture founding member Raylene as shy, or as a lawyer for that matter. But the Mabou native, who delighted audiences around the world, articled with Truro law firm Burchell MacDougall after earning her degree in 1987 and was admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1988. “She could have been a very successful lawyer,” says MacDonald.

When Raylene passed away in fall 2012 after a courageous battle with cancer, several class of ’87 alumni decided to do something to honour her life and work. They initiated the Raylene Rankin Memorial Bursary, which will provide financial assistance to first-year students at the Schulich School of Law.

Chris Hale (LLB’87), a Toronto-based intellectual property lawyer, says preference will be given to students from Mabou, Inverness County or Cape Breton, with financial need, academic performance, community involvement and accomplishment in musical studies and performances also being considered.

A spirit of generosity

“Her family and roots in Cape Breton were very important to her, as was giving back to the community. We felt the bursary should provide a benefit to the place where she grew up and reflect her spirit of generosity.”

Heather Rankin thinks her sister would have been delighted and humbled by the bursary. “She was not the type to put herself on a pedestal. She would have taken great satisfaction knowing that a young, deserving person with a dream of achieving what she had worked so hard to achieve would receive some assistance in her name.“

Janice Younker (LLB’87), MacDonald and Hale spearheaded the fundraising. More than 50 alumni and friends have contributed to the fund to date, which Hale says demonstrates the profound impact Raylene had on everyone she knew. He hopes the fund – which has raised close to $26,500 as of November 2013 – will have a similar impact.

“Ideally, if it can support students who share the same traits that she had to pursue a career in law, then it is a very good thing.”

The fund is still open and accepting donations. Cheques may be sent to the law school with a note stating that they are intended for the bursary.