Margaret Newall — with visionary leadership, inspirational philanthropy, and earnest intentions — made a difference across Canada.
Although garnering attention was never the goal, accolades still came her way.
Three times Newall accepted honorary degrees, including from the University of Calgary. In 2004, she became a member of the Order of Canada. She received Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
When Newall was named the YWCA Toronto’s Woman of Distinction last year, an interviewer asked her what the gala’s audience could learn from her accomplishments.
“Remember what Dr. Seuss says in The Lorax: ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’”
Which are words Newall lived by.
She did care a whole awful lot, there is no denying that. And things really are better, thanks to Newall, who died July 8 at the age of 86. Her memorial service is scheduled for July 23 in Toronto, but she will not be forgotten here.
‘Community activism’ for prevention of family violence
For 30 years Newall, Hon. LLD’03, supported UCalgary with bursaries and scholarships. She also co-founded the Prairieaction Foundation, raising millions of dollars for Research and Education for Solutions to Violence and Abuse (RESOLVE). The network, which includes UCalgary, supports community-engaged research and education aimed at ensuring safe home environments and ending violence, especially violence involving girls and women.
“Margaret Newall built up a reputation for community activism stretching as far back as the 1950s. She knew just how to galvanize wider support for causes close to her heart: prevention of family violence, mental health supports, and positive parent-child relationships,” says President Ed McCauley.
“The University of Calgary has been a grateful beneficiary of Margaret Newall’s generosity, which has supported much-needed bursaries, scholarships and research, and we hope to carry on her legacy of kindness.”
Her husband, J.E. (Ted) Newall, Hon. LLD’03 — a prominent businessman who died in 2012 — served as chair of the University of Calgary’s Board of Governors from 1996 to 2001. An officer of the Order of Canada, he was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.
Together, the couple forged a remarkable legacy at UCalgary. The Margaret and Ted Newall Bursary, for example, provides support every year to 20 students, based on financial need, academic merit, and permanent home addresses outside the greater Calgary area. Having grown up on a farm in Saskatchewan, Newall never forgot her rural roots, and she understood the commitment of leaving home to pursue education.
Nursing initiatives close to her heart
For the Faculty of Nursing, her family funded a wide range of awards, including the Margaret Newall Graduate Scholarship in Nursing, which is offered to students in programs focusing on family violence, abuse, or toxic stress.
“Margaret was very passionate about childhood health and wellness, about finding ways to decrease family violence, to prevent it,” says Dr. Sandra Davidson, dean of the Faculty of Nursing.
“She believed that research is an integral part of how we make societal change. But she also thought about the future of nurses who are going to do the research, which is really optimistic. To be proactive (through numerous scholarships and bursaries) to make sure we have that support for generations to come … she was a force. The world is going to miss her.”
Dr. Nicole Letourneau, director of RESOLVE Alberta, found a champion in Newall, who personally backed Letourneau’s research delving into how to help children and women overcome the impact of domestic violence and other early adversities.
“She was such an advocate for families and children. She was really a trailblazer,” says Letourneau, PhD, professor at UCalgary Nursing and Cumming School of Medicine.
“We need more people like her — more people who care about their fellow citizens and children and families. She was a genuinely caring person who truly made a difference in the world.”
Mother of three — Alison, Ian, Malcolm — and a former elementary school teacher, Newall was dedicated to ensuring the best outcomes for all children. “When she was teaching, she knew the kids that were struggling at home and she knew the ones that weren’t,” says Letourneau.
“She saw the differences in how they performed in school. It was a passion of hers to help children get the best start in life.”
Newall’s contributions to the community did not go unnoticed. For her work on behalf of survivors of family violence, for instance, she received the 2004 Muriel McQueen Fergusson Foundation Award, one of many entries on her jam-packed résumé.
“She was certainly humble,” says Letourneau, fighting back tears. “She was a really engaged Canadian who cared about Canadians, who cared about kids and students and education. It’s really important that we pay attention to people like her, people who have done great things.
“A very special person. I’ll miss her. I’ll really miss her.”
More information is available in the obituary.