Celebrating Generosity

A celebration of character, education and life

The assistant editor of the 1937 Mount Royal College Chinook yearbook was at Mount Royal University earlier this week celebrating her 90th birthday.

Helen Hartman Smith
Mount Royal alumna, Helen Hartman Smith recently celebrated her 90th birthday with us.

Helen Hartman Smith is one of the few people who actually remembers Mount Royal’s founder, Rev. Dr. George Kerby as a living person, and not just an icon on a poster.

What do you buy a 90-year-old?

Her family debated what to get Helen for her 90th birthday gift for a while before her son Alan Smith came up with a unique idea that ensures her memory is long-lasting and honours her values.

On the day of Helen’s birthday, the Smith family and Mount Royal announced, to Helen’s surprise, a $100,000 endowment in support of the Helen Hartman Smith Centennial Scholarship in English, which will be awarded to two students each year, beginning Sept. 2011.

“I’ve been watching Mount Royal and been close to it because my daughter was part of the junior orchestra program here, my niece is currently a student here and my other niece is an alumna who was on the dean’s list here and obviously my mother went here,” said Alan.

“And it’s a university now, it’s really starting to grow, so I feel like it’s a great time to support Mount Royal.”

Helen arrived at Mount Royal’s original, downtown campus in the fall of 1937 from Olds, a wide-eyed, intelligent sixteen-year-old, who had a passion for reading and writing.

While Helen only stayed at Mount Royal for a year, Mount Royal never quite left Helen.

“I was too young to go to university at 16 and my dad suggested I come here to Mount Royal and take some courses to get the hang of it,” says Helen.

“I continued taking courses and somewhere along the line, about 1972, I got my bachelors degree.”

“With my husband being a teacher, it was a family expectation that you would go to school and it’s been imparted to my kids and my grand kids. And this scholarship is something I’m very proud of and I really appreciate.”

Looking back

“I remember seeing old Dr. Kerby and his wife around the campus and they were exactly what you’d consider a proper Victorian couple,” says Helen recalling how he’d address the students and faculty each morning at a general assembly.

And there was the dean of women.

Smith says, a very strict standard was set out for the young ladies of Mount Royal.

“She wanted us to be properly behaved and properly attired. I learned very quickly that you would always wear gloves and a hat to church but when you went out in the evening you didn’t need to wear the hat but the gloves were a must.”

While Mount Royal no longer has a dean of women and expectations of our students’ appearances couldn’t be more different from what they were when Helen was a student, the value of achievement, milestones, passion and dedication are as important now as they were 90 years ago.

Those words embody the spirit of Helen Hartman Smith and her character sets an example for all the Mount Royal students yet to come.

This scholarship will ensure that those values live on.

Steven Noble, April 7, 2011