By Mark Campbell

Frank Milne (second from left) with several Frank E. Milne Scholarship recipients. (Provided photo)

All through his life, Frank Milne (BSc’56, BEd’57) has demonstrated a strong passion for academic excellence and community leadership. As a math and physics teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School in Halifax, he helped many students excel, earning him a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal. And his commitment to the community led him to leadership roles with many organizations over the years, including the Halifax Kiwanis Club, the Halifax Youth Foundation, and the Dalhousie Alumni Association.

Such selflessness is worth celebrating. But when Milne discovered that several former students were planning a party in his honour upon his retirement from teaching in 1990, he approached them with a better idea. “I made a counterproposal that we start a scholarship because that would have more of an impact than an elaborate, one-off celebration,” he recalls. “They all agreed, and they chipped in to make it happen.”

Milne and his former students created the Frank E. Milne Scholarship, which has not only extended his 35-year legacy of encouraging academic excellence among young Nova Scotians but also has become a means for him to recognize Dalhousie’s contribution to his long and rewarding career. The Foundation  awards scholarships to Nova Scotia high school students who, like Milne, have demonstrated a commitment to leadership and who have a strong interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic) fields, specifically the engineering program at Dalhousie.

Collaborative spirit

From the start, a strong math mark was a vital consideration in the Foundation’s scholarship award decisions—a nod to Milne’s background. But Milne explains that the focus on engineering evolved over time. “It became obvious to us that our recipients would have a great advantage if they were all in the same program so they could discuss their progress and advise one another,” he says. “We selected engineering as it seemed to be our scholars’ most popular choice for studies.”

Dalhousie thus became the obvious academic choice for students pursuing a degree in engineering. For one, it offered a complete program locally, enabling recipients to benefit from mentoring and networking opportunities. It also offered Milne an opportunity to give back to the university that helped make his teaching career possible. And it was a nod to Milne’s lifelong interest in engineering, which he regards as the pinnacle of achievement. “My initial ambition was to become an engineer,” says Milne, who made his first gift to Dalhousie in 1967. “However, I started tutoring students in high school and that experience led me to a career in teaching instead. Through the scholarship, I am able to help others pursue that dream.”

Forging connections

Dr. Jason McConnery received the Frank E. Milne Scholarship as a Dalhousie student. (Photo provided)

For recipients like Liam Carson, a third-year Engineering student specializing in mechanical engineering, the benefits of a Frank E. Milne Foundation scholarship extend far beyond financial support.  “I’ve met other students who have become my best friends, so there’s an element of camaraderie to it,” Carson explains. “And Frank is a great mentor who always has invaluable advice for us, so the scholarship has not only been a big part of my life but has also made it possible for me to succeed in the program.”

Jason McConnery (BSc’13), who went on to study medicine following his undergrad, agrees that the real value of a Frank E. Milne Foundation scholarship is not necessarily the financial support it provides. “I always had someone to whom I was accountable and who constantly encouraged me to get really good grades,” says Dr. McConnery, a Pediatric Respirology Fellow at The Hospital for Sick Children. “It also helped me become a better public speaker, particularly through the networking and social events. And Frank is a wonderful mentor and role model who has taught so many young people who are truly the future of leadership in Nova Scotia, if not Canada.”

Lasting impact

Since 1992, the Foundation has awarded $498,150 in scholarships to 145 students from 20 Nova Scotia high schools.  Bob Thibault, who helped launch the Foundation and now serves as its president, says the plan is to increase donations and support more students “We want to ensure Frank’s legacy continues in perpetuity so that future generations of Nova Scotians who have strong math and science marks are able to study engineering at Dalhousie,” he says.

That vision appeals to Milne, who is celebrating the 65th anniversary of graduating from Dalhousie. “I hope it helps good math scholars achieve their educational goals for years to come,” he says.