Mary Anne and Robert White

By Dawn Morrison
Photography: Danny Abriel

The MacLennan Society: Celebrating Loyalty

The MacLennan Society celebrates alumni and friends who make the decision to consistently give back to Dalhousie. Their unwavering support has been an essential cornerstone, helping our community achieve its goals over the past 200 years. The society was named for Rod MacLennan (BSc’60, LLD’98) in honour of his longstanding and far-reaching support.

Over the coming year, we are pleased to bring you profiles of MacLennan Society members, a number of whom are employed as faculty and staff at Dalhousie. Dr. Mary Anne White and Dr. Robert White are two such members, having achieved Silver status in The MacLennan Society for giving consistently to Dal for more than 25 years. The following is their giving story.

Chemistry professors Mary Anne and Robert White chose to support to Dalhousie in areas of academic priority

When Mary Anne White, OC, and Robert White (BSc’74) gave their first gift to Dalhousie over 25 years ago, their intention was simple.  They wanted to help a part of the university that was important to them:  the library. And when you think of the thousands of Dalhousie students and researchers who access library holdings each year, their generosity has had a broad impact.

Moving the giving goalposts

“My initial idea was to give $100 to the Killam Memorial Library so they could buy a book each year,” Robert said. “I wanted to give a donation connected to something tangible.” Mary Anne had written a text book, “Physical Properties of Materials” and donated copies to the Killam Memorial Library. “In the ‘90s, there was a huge increase in library costs. After awhile, I realized my $100 a year was nowhere close to filling the gap in terms of price increases,” he says, so they shifted their gift-giving goals.

In addition to increased library holdings, there was also a need to fund research seminars at Dalhousie — another priority for Robert and Mary Anne. They felt that bringing visiting scholars to campus provided immense benefits to the students and faculty, so they decided to create an endowment fund for the chemistry visiting speaker series. The goal was to donate every year to build up an endowed amount to fund one visitor from outside the region each year. They have more than met that goal.

Expanding minds with research

“Bringing visiting academics to campus has been really great for the department and the university,” Robert says. “There is a very small research community in Canada, so it’s important that we get a chance to connect with other scholars, and for students to have the opportunity to find out what research is happening elsewhere, and hear a wide range of scholars speak about different aspects of chemistry.  The Department of Chemistry has been bringing over 40 scholars to campus each year for over 30 years now. We are proud to support this endeavour. It really has been a win-win.”

In 2000, Mary Anne hosted a conference, putting the proceeds towards an endowment to attract speakers on the topic of materials research. That endowment fund continues to bring several speakers to Dal each year. She says the experience illustrated how important an endowment can be in creating lasting benefit to the university. She herself is the Harry Shirreff Professor of Chemical Research (Emerita), endowed by R.B. Bennett.

These professors have also supported summer research awards, the student experience fund, and other priorities within the Chemistry department and other departments on campus.

A legacy of need-based giving

Over the years, their gifts to Dalhousie have grown and they’ve provided consistent support to help Dalhousie achieve its goals. Mary Anne and Robert were recently welcomed into the MacLennan Society and honoured for over 25 years of giving.

Mary Anne and Robert say it is important for them to give back to Dalhousie in a way that deepens the academic experience. They have continued to give consistently over the years in recognition of their strong, personal connection to the university.

“Dalhousie has been very good to us and our careers, and over the past few decades we knew there were times when Dalhousie really needed the support,” Mary Anne says. “If you see a need, and you have the means to donate, then why not do it? It’s important to give back.”