By SMU Alumni
The Saint Mary’s University community lost one of its most passionate advocates on February 25, 2019 with the death of Heather Harris BA ’70 MA ’72 at the age of 76.
Born and raised in Halifax, Heather attended Saint Mary’s just after it became co-educational, then moved to British Columbia to pursue a career in teaching. She returned to her hometown around 1988, and later she became the sole caregiver for her elderly mother, then in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Heather’s friend Ann MacGillivary, herself a Saint Mary’s alumna and now retired professor of Business and Tourism at Mount Saint Vincent University, recalled Heather’s pride in the quality of care she was able to offer her mother, which allowed her to remain in her own home, calm and drug-free, for the duration of her illness.
“Heather created a ‘lesson plan’ for every day—the teacher in her came out. There was a menu and a routine. She always referred to their ‘successful Alzheimer’s experience.’ ”
Ann and Heather served together on the Saint Mary’s Alumni Association and often participated in fundraising events at the university like Time For Tea, an initiative begun by Carol Dodds (wife of former President Dr. Colin Dodds), which helped fund scholarships for single parent students at Saint Mary’s. Over its fifteen years of existence, this event raised around $700,000. For one tea party, the two friends baked 18 pans of squares!
It was Ann who introduced Heather to Colin Dodds, then SMU’s Vice-President Academic. Always eager to share her ideas for promoting the Saint Mary’s brand, her most recent interest was the Salzinnes Antiphonal, a late medieval manuscript held at the Patrick Power Library which she thought should be digitized and made available to the broader public. Dr. Dodds remembers Heather fondly:
“She had some very good ideas, ideas that we couldn’t always adopt, but good ideas. She would persist a little bit, but she knew when to back off. I used to get missives through the mail, and she would also call and email. Some of the letters had ‘For Your Eyes Only’ written on the envelope, a bit like James Bond! She had a sense of humour.”
“Universities all have iconic figures, and she was one of them.”
Heather’s keen interest in sports also led her to serve on the steering committee of the SMU Sport Hall of Fame. Committee chair Paul Puma BComm ’67 BEd ’68 remembers her commitment to her alma mater.
“I had respect for Heather because she had passion for and loyalty to Saint Mary’s University, and that was something we shared.”
“Without a doubt, she was a true Santamarian.”