About The Violet King Engaged Scholar Award
The Violet King Engaged Scholar Award recognizes talented students with financial needs. Violet King was an exemplary student from a working-class background who paid for her education through loans and by teaching classical and jazz piano lessons. Her story exemplifies the reality of so many talented students who face barriers to and success within the university because of income limited access to scholarships, fellowships, and awards. This award recognizes and seeks to limit financial barriers that shape access and opportunity structures. It aims to facilitate access and embed equity, diversity, and inclusion in efforts to advance and enhance the student experience for those from historically underrepresented communities. The barriers to flourishing that are faced by Black, racialized, and Indigenous students informed the creation of the Award both to recognize talent and to enhance the affordability and accessibility of education for such students at the University of Calgary.
- The Award recognizes and celebrates underrepresented students' talents, contributions and needs at the University of Calgary.
- The Award recognizes the socioeconomic challenges underrepresented students face.
- The Award contributes to efforts to level the playing field by financially supporting students to succeed at the university.
The SU, the OEDI and the university promote accessibility, equity, diversity, and inclusivity by offering various supports to members of equity-deserving groups.
courtesy Glenbow Archives/NA-5600-7297a
About Violet King (1929-1982)
The Violet King Engaged Scholar Award is named after Violet King, Alberta’s and Canada’s first Black woman lawyer. King was an exemplar of an engaged scholar, as an inspired student leader in high school, on campus at the University of Alberta, where she completed a BA in History in 1952 and an LLB in 1953, becoming the first Black person in the province to graduate with a law degree. After articling with the Calgary law firm of Edward J. McCormick, Q.C., King was called to the Alberta Bar on June 2, 1954, becoming the first Black person in Alberta, and the first Black woman in Canada, to become a lawyer.
King was a trailblazer. She was born in Calgary on October 18, 1929 and raised in the Hillhurst-Sunnyside community. As a student leader, she was an exemplar of the academically, socially, and community-engaged scholar in high school, and this continued into her university studies. King’s trailblazing accomplishments and student engagement were widely recognized by Alberta newspapers when she was called to the Alberta Bar. In one editorial, “A Dauntless Young Woman,” The Albertan reported the following:
“History of a constructive kind was made in Calgary last week when Miss Violet King, a young colored woman, was admitted to the bar of this province. Miss King, a native of Calgary, had a brilliant record in the city schools and at the University of Alberta. She has always fitted one hundred percent into social, student and community affairs. She has, in fact, usually been a leader. In choosing a career, she wasn’t daunted by the scarcity of either people of her color or women of any race in the legal profession.
Her admission to the Alberta bar is a tribute to the profession, to her race, to her teachers and professors, to those who have sponsored and assisted her, to her parents—and of course, to herself.” (The Albertan, June 8, 1954).
People told me it wasn’t a good idea for a girl to be a lawyer, particularly a coloured girl, so I went ahead.
Violet King, May 5, 1956
Violet King served as the president of the Grade 12 Girls’ Association and was active in the Hi-Y club, an affiliate of the YWCA, which served as a network for future volunteer leaders at Crescent Heights School in the Hillhurst-Sunnyside community in Calgary. In 1946 and 1947, Violet King was named on the Hi-Y honour roll for her extracurricular volunteer activities. This student leadership and engagement continued at the University of Alberta, where the women students of her generation were encouraged by Maimie Simpson, the Dean of Women, to think of engagement and volunteerism as “a philosophy of living, where you give of yourself, where you can give the gift of appreciation.” (M. Simpson, Taking a Backward Look: Memoirs of a Dean of Women. Accession 69-55, U of Alberta Archives, 1968: 15).
At university, King was involved in numerous student groups, including the Blue Stocking Society, which included young women students who were interested in gender equality, history, and intellectual and public affairs. Some of King’s student engagement activities included service on, for example:
- Golden Key Society
- Arts and Science Club (served as Secretary)
- Class Historian (selected by peers, 1951-1952)
- Vice President of Students Union
- National Federation of Canadian University Students (NFCUS) (selected by SU)
International Student Services Conference (served as Alberta representative to meetings at McMaster in 1952)
- Pembina House Committee
- Students Union Building’s Housing Committee
- Disciplinary Committee
In 1952 King was one of four student leaders who was recognized with an Executive “A” gold ring at Colour Night for her outstanding contributions to student life. The other three recipients to be honoured alongside King were Peter Lougheed, Ivan Head, and Garth Fryett (“Colour Night Next Tuesday: Twelve to Receive Rings,” The Gateway (March 14, 1952: 1).
2023 Violet King Engaged Scholar Award Recipients
Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Student’s Union award six exceptional UCalgary students
Yvette Ysabel Yao
Yvette Ysabel Yao is a medical student at the Cumming School of Medicine. She is a magna cum laude graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, and received her bachelor's degrees in Molecular & Cell Biology (Honors) and Public Health (Honors). Growing up in the Philippines, Yvette witnessed the harsh realities of living in a medically underserved community. These experiences compelled her to be the first in her family to pursue a career in medicine, focusing on addressing the healthcare gaps prevalent in underserved communities. Having experienced the challenges of adjusting to new cultures and healthcare systems, she has taken on diverse roles to contribute to the fields of global and newcomer health.
At UC Berkeley, Yvette volunteered as a Tagalog health interpreter and spearheaded the introduction of preventative health curriculums to vulnerable populations in the Philippines through the “Hygiene Heroes” group. As a medical student, she co-founded the Calgary Asian Medical Students Association to advocate for newcomer health. She also serves as a National Officer of Research Exchange for the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. She is also the Federation of Medical Women of Canada representative for her class and is a Neurology System Editor for the Calgary Guide
Victory Abraham is an Ethiopian and Eritrean fourth-year Law and Society student at the University of Calgary. She is also obtaining a Mental Well-being and Resilience certificate. Victory plans to become a Lawyer, further exploring her passion for criminal justice, social justice and advocacy, and race-based data.
Victory maintains secure relationships in all her community involvements to see Calgary's communities succeed. She aims to elevate university students through her role as the Co-President of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Students Association. Victory demonstrates leadership in her work and volunteering, including tutoring, program planning and facilitating, and mentoring Black youth and children in Calgary. Her exceptional experience, motivation, and tenacity stem from her immigration story and being the first in her family to pursue law.
Victory is honoured and inspired to receive this scholarship, as Violet King is an exceptional and motivating figure. With this award, Victory will continue her community and academic commitments.
Misgana is a first-generation post-secondary student whose journey from war-torn Sudan to Canada exemplifies resilience and determination. Her unwavering passion for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion has been the driving force behind her academic and professional career. As a volunteer mentor with the Eritrean Canadian Community Association, Misgana mentored several Eritrean high school students who were newcomers to Canada.
During the pandemic, she provided valuable translation services in English, Arabic, and Tigrinya to non-English speaking Eritrean women seeking support from the Calgary Immigration Women's Association. Misgana recently received the prestigious PURE award and is currently halfway through a 16-week summer work studentship.
She is also currently working under the neurologist Dr. Morris Scantelbury in the field of pediatric epilepsy at the Heritage Medical Research Building. The research involves examining the underlying mechanisms of infantile spasms. With her tireless efforts and commitment to making a meaningful difference, she aspires to contribute to the growing body of knowledge and bring about tangible improvements in the lives of those living with infantile spasms.
Her commitment to promoting equity and inclusion has also led her to pursue academic research alongside Canada Research Chair Dr. Jennifer Adams, where she is working to reduce barriers for Black students pursuing careers in STEM-related fields. Misgana aspires to become a teacher following graduation from UCalgary.
Pelumi Adeosun is a Law & Society Co-op student at the University of Calgary. She has a passion for advocacy and inclusion for Black immigrants and women, refined through internships, research, and service projects throughout her undergraduate career. Alongside her strong academic record exists an active involvement in student leadership.
At UCalgary, Pelumi actively cultivates an environment of belonging on campus through her extra-curricular involvement. She acted as the Vice-President of the Nigerian Students’ Association this past academic year and has undertaken numerous peer mentorship roles as a student in the Scholars Academy Program.
Her campus and community involvement have earned her several prestigious awards, including the Government of Alberta’s Lois Hole Humanities & Social Sciences Scholarship in 2021 and the Laurence Decore Award for Student Leadership for two consecutive years.
This summer, she will work with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP as an Avenue Undergraduate Legal Intern in their Calgary office. Looking towards the future, after graduating from law school, she intends to use her legal expertise to continue supporting underserved communities.
Senait Berhane Yohannes is a born and raised Calgarian of Eritrean descent. She possesses an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from Mount Royal University and is entering her final year of law school. Before beginning her post-secondary studies, she spent many years working in remote oil and gas locations in Northern Alberta and British Columbia.
As an Executive member of the UCalgary Black Law Students Association, first as VP of Administration and as the current Co-President, she leads a growing community of Black Law Students, bringing networking opportunities, mentorship, grants, and events to its members.
Senait works for Calgary Transit and is also working a summer term at Stikeman Elliot LLP, where she has officially accepted an articling offer. She is a recipient of the Alberta Provincial Judges Association Chief Judge Gail Vickery Award. She is this year’s recipient of “The Foundation Scholarship” and the “Frances Hartogh Diversity Outreach Scholarship” from the Foundation for Natural Resources and Energy Law. Senait will complete her Fall Law School Fall semester in Oslo, Norway.
Tolu Adewole possesses a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is a 4th year Nursing student with a passion for social justice and working with underrepresented populations. Having lived in Canada and Nigeria highlighted, Tolu has become inspired to dismantle and influence change in healthcare systems that sustain health inequities.
As a Nursing Student, she has actively engaged in research activities related to nursing and healthcare. Tolu is currently participating in a research project that helps nurses to practice their skills in verbally de-escalating agitated patients. She is also working on a project to develop a guide and best practices in aiding nurses to find and feel veins in patients with different skin tones and colours.
Tolu’s goal is to positively impact the lives of others and contribute to equitable healthcare through research, innovation and advocacy. She is eager to lend her talent and knowledge in the future, working globally to change health outcomes and inequities through resourcing allocation, health programming and policy and working with governments to build comprehensive primary healthcare settings in areas lacking resources and infrastructure.
Ground-breaking Calgarian earns permanent home at law school
By - Ali Abel, Faculty of Law | UToday
She has become a symbol of resiliency and determination for Black law students across Canada. She was the only woman in her graduating class at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law, the first Black person admitted to the Alberta Bar, and Canada’s first Black female lawyer. Violet King Henry was born and raised in Calgary, and while a student at Crescent Heights High School, declared that she would become a criminal lawyer.
To honour her courage and her contributions to the community and the legal profession, and to continue to inspire all law students who see it, a portrait of King Henry was unveiled in UCalgary Law's largest classroom on Thursday, March 30.
Canadian Football League Hall of Famer Jon Cornish is Canada's youngest university Chancellor
Interview with Ron Cornish, UCalgary | RON FANFAIR
March 2, 2023
In the next four years, he will chair the senate, sit on the Board of Governors and preside over degree-conferring ceremonies at convocation.
Looking to the past to build a more equitable and inclusive present during Black History Month
Author - Collene Ferguson, UCalgary | UToday
February 2, 2023
Lots to learn from the stories of struggle, courage and triumph of Black Canadians
Significance of Black History Month
Author - Dr. Malinda Smith, UCalgary | web
There is power in story and danger in the single story. That is why Black History Month is so important. We all need to understand the diversity and complexity of the Black historical experience here in Canada.
Heritage Calgary Plaque Recognizes Residence of Violet King
Author - Heritage Calgary
February 28, 2022
The residence is nationally significant as the home of the King family, including siblings Violet King and Theodore King, who are recognized for their work to advance racial equality in Alberta and are a significant part of Alberta’s civil rights history.
Edmonton's Federal Building public square named after a Black pioneer
Author - Katrine Deniset | ICI Alberta
February 27, 2021
From Calgary, Violet King was the first Black woman to practise law in the country.
Plaza renamed to honour trailblazing Black Calgarian
Author - Helen Pike | CBC News
February 26, 2021
The Federal Building plaza, with views of the Alberta Legislature, has a new name: the Violet King Henry Plaza.
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion are at the core of Dr. Malinda Smith's research
Interview with Dr. Malinda Smith, UCalgary | RON FANFAIR
October 29, 2020
As the first person of colour to serve on the executive of the Federation for the Humanities & Social Sciences, Smith – as Vice-President Equity – led ‘Equity Matters’ on the Ideas-Idees blog and worked to embed EDI in Congress programming.
Black Albertans You Should Know
Author - Dr. Malinda Smith, UCalgary | webpage
Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Trailblazing Black Albertans who, too often, are hidden in provincial and Canadian narratives. These stories, as the achievements of these Black Albertans, act as a corrective to misconceptions of Black Albertans as newcomers and the deficit narratives that function to limit Black aspirations and achievements.
Beyond a Single Story: Black Lives and Hidden Figures in the Canadian Academy
Author - Dr. Malinda Smith, UCalgary | Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
February 18, 2020
Three counter-narratives of trailblazing Black women who resolutely defied social barriers pushed back against the weight of stereotypes and pursued their higher education aspirations on the Indigenous territories that we now know as Canada.
Making black history in Alberta visible
Author - UAlberta | Medium
February 8, 2017
The history of black people in Alberta remains obscured by the “tyranny of homogenization.”
Quality Money is an excellent example of collaboration between your SU, the university, and the student body. The Quality Money proposal process allows the SU to determine where students feel money should be invested on campus. Furthermore, thanks to feedback and proposals received through the Quality Money program, the SU is better able to inform the university about the priorities and concerns of students. Your SU uses feedback from students in determining where to invest Quality Money each year.