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Marie Ellen McMunn - (left) at her Bachelor of Arts 1971 graduation and (right) at Postgraduate Diploma, Educational Foundations graduation in 2004 (Photos: submitted)

A long and winding road

Golden Grad Marie Ellen McMunn (BA'71, PGD'04) didn’t take the usual path to obtain her USask degree. It started out as a dream, but through persistence, dedication and hard work, McMunn is able to stand tall amongst her peers. Proudly, she recalls her road to obtain her education and employment history in this post.

It is an honour and privilege to add my story with the other "Golden Grads" of 1971. It is hard to believe that it has been fifty years since I graduated. On reflection I am most thankful for the opportunities that the University of Saskatchewan provided me for my academic and professional careers. It was through their foresight that an opportunity was given to a young single parent in the late 1960s to achieve these accomplishments. Having only a Grade XI education and although I had a relative decent employment with the Government of Saskatchewan, I realized that in order to support three young children, I needed to advance my opportunity for a better financial position. I, therefore, upgraded my education by completing three Grade XII courses, Literature, Composition and Social Studies with the Regina Board of Education, September 1967 - January 1968, Grade XI Vocational Diploma Honours, through Canada Manpower, Bosco High School, January 1968-May 1968. I was fortunate that as a key punch operator with Government of Saskatchewan Department of Health-Medicare to be given an education leave to pursue my studies at Bosco; this was a rare exception. It was through one of my teachers, Mr. Davidson who had been the deputy minister for the Department of Education, that referred me to the Dean of Education, University of Saskatchewan Regina Campus, to see of the possibility of enrollment in the Education degree program.

During my interview Dean France advised me that even though I had successfully completed three of the required courses, I was not able to be admitted directly in the Education degree program. He, however, suggested that I contact Dr. Les Crossman for admission in the Matriculation and Adult Admission programs. This program was created at Regina College after WWII for the service members returning to continue their high school studies that they had discontinue in order to serve their "Country and King."

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I was accepted into the Matriculation program and commenced my studies for the fall semester of 1968. In order to be admitted to a degree program, you bad to complete the required subjects of Mathematics 90/91, History 100, Biology 91, Literature 90/91, French 90/91 and Eng SO. As this program was not considered for the student loan program and I never received financial support from my ex-husband or any government social programs, I was fortunate to receive financial support from my widowed mother. I received my Matriculation Certificate, 1969, being one of thirteen recipients out a class of fifty students.

Just a brief note, university students today would not believe that as students we were called upon and addressed by either Mr., Mrs. or Miss and their surnames. Jeans and a T-shirt would not be considered as appropriate attire to attend classes. In my class of 50 students, there were approximately 20% female students and for the 50 students the age ranged from their early twenties to those in their thirties. As well, I was twenty-four years in 1968 and could not be admitted directly into the Adult Admission program as I was not considered an adult even though I had been in the work force since the age of 16 and was a mother of three but was not yet twenty-five years of age.

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At Campion College graduation ceremony with my mother and 3 children

On receiving my matriculation certificate, I was able to register in the 3-year Bachelor of Arts program which I completed through summer classes and regular semesters to obtain my B.A. in 1971, thus being a "Golden Grad." While obtaining my B.A., I was registered in the federation college, Campion.

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Campion College, University of Saskatchewan

Upon completing my B.A., I enroll in the Faculty Education for two semesters. However, due to my financial obligations, I decided to discontinue my studies. Initially I was employed with the Government of Canada, Regional Economic office in Regina. I eventually ceased my employment with the federal government to become the Administrative Assistant to the Dean of the Faculty of Administration, November 1971 University of Saskatchewan Regina Campus and subsequently became the Administrative Assistant to the Dean of the Faculty of Education in 1978 at the University of Regina. While employed with the U of R., I continued my studies as a part-time student to fulfill the necessary requirements to complete the Bachelor of Education degree program which I received Bachelor of Education with Distinction in May 1982.

In 1984, my husband's office with Canpotex Ltd. moved to Saskatoon where I became employed with the College of Law, University of Saskatchewan as the Administrative Officer, 1985 until taking early retirement in 1999. While I was employed with the College of Law and subsequently on my retirement, I continued my studies with the College of Graduate Studies for the Master of Education, Continuing Education.

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Being congratulated by my former Dean, College of Law and now past president of the University of Saskatchewan, Peter MacKinnon

I completed all the course requirements and commenced my research for my Master's thesis proposal, "Looking Back some Thirty Years: School for Unwed Mothers, Balfour Special Tutorial Program and Mackenzie Infant Care Centre" was submitted and accepted by the University Advisory Committee on Ethics. On approval, I completed my research, data collection and interviews with the subjects but due to medical issues, I was unable to finalize the written thesis. Having successfully completed all the course requirements, I was conferred with my Postgraduate Diploma, Educational Foundations in 2004.

I am so appreciative to the University of Saskatchewan that in the 1960s had a program that allowed me to fulfill my academic and professional dreams. It was through the U of S that I was able to have significant and meaningful work experiences with the Faculty of Administration and Education, U of S. Regina Campus and U of R 1972 - 1984, the Extension Department as a summer student 1971/1972, U of S, Regina Campus and the College of Law 1985 - 1999.

Upon retirement, I continue my volunteer work with the local hospital and golf course, enjoy golfing, travelling, reading, yard work and of course time with family and friends.

- Marie Ellen McMunn

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