Charity honours volunteer with new STM College scholarship

Katherine Duke presents the inaugural Blue Mantle, Audrey Haines Scholarship to Victoria Spurr 

The warmth generated from more than 50 years of Christian love and compassion will forever be felt at colleges and schools around the province. 

The flame was lit in Regina in the mid-1960s, when the Blue Mantle project first began with volunteers distributing coats, gloves and warm clothing to the inner-city needy from a small outbuilding of the Blessed Sacrament Parish. As the mission expanded and with the outbuilding scheduled for demolition, Archbishop Halpin charged Father Don McNeil in 1984 with the task of finding a permanent premises from which to continue the work of the Blue Mantle with the provision that the charity must be self-sustaining and cover all of its costs of operation.  

Father Don led the organization’s transition into a new inner-city location, supported by volunteers, a small staff and community support in the form of donations of clothing, furniture and housewares. The overhead was covered by operating a Thrift Store, the proceeds from bingos and general donations. In the early 2000’s, as the organization faced financial exigency, Archbishop Peter Mallon facilitated the transition to Katherine Duke and a new Board of Directors in order to continue and revitalize the mission. Father Don remained as a Board member and advisor for many years. 

Through the years, the charity moved buildings several times, struggled, survived, grew, served as a hub of community, and offered an educational opportunity in Christian service to many high school student volunteers. 

Ultimately a catastrophic flood resulting from frozen and burst water pipes combined with insurance coverage and building ownership issues brought about the closure of the Blue Mantle, but the spark of its mission didn’t die. 

St. Thomas More College will carry that flame into the future thanks to a new $100,000 endowment from the charity, which will fund The Blue Mantle, Audrey Haines Scholarship for a continuing student each year. 

The scholarship is given based on academic average to a declared St. Thomas More College student who is a continuing, full-time student and has demonstrated leadership in community service and/or actions for social justice. 

“Over the years at the Blue Mantle, many newcomers to Canada became staff members, learning English and getting Canadian work experience,” said Katherine Duke, Executive Director. 

“It was a model that impacted a lot of people in the community in different ways,” she said. 

“It was a cool place with a cool vibe. Those that donated, those that shopped, those that worked with us as volunteers, and those that needed things, all meshed into an interesting community.” 

The scholarships that came out of the Blue Mantle were given in honour of key volunteers who kept the work of the charity alive, going ‘above and beyond’ in giving their time and effort. They are Fr. Don McNeil, who was a passionate advocate, Sr. Rose Aimée Belisle, a tireless volunteer and friend to the homeless, Alvin Knoll committed volunteer and Board member and Luther High School teacher Steve Haddad, who brought his Christian Service students out each Saturday to do pick ups and deliveries of furniture and other donations. 

Aside from the new STM scholarship honouring Audrey Haines, there will now be a Fr. McNeil Scholarship at Campion College, the Sr. Rose Aimée Belisle Scholarship at Notre Dame High School, an enhanced Guenzel Knoll Luther High School dormitory scholarship and the Luther High School Blue Mantle Christian Service Award (in honour of Steve Haddad).  

“We’ve tried to carry on the spirit of the Blue Mantle. It may not be physically giving goods and services to individuals, but through the individuals these scholarships support in their education and the mandate to try and encourage them to reach out to the community,” Duke said. “The spirit of it carries on, and that’s important.” 

Duke credits Audrey Haines with 20 years of dedication to the Blue Mantle as a volunteer and Board member with a strong commitment to her Catholic faith. She acted as Corporate Secretary providing trusted advice, minutes and support through many challenging times. Her clarity of thought, mediation skills and ability to offer trusted advice was valued and respected. Her attitude was always ‘How can I help?’ 

“That’s what any university graduate could be as an active member of any charitable board, and have something really essential to contribute,” she said. “Because for the people that are passionate, and are in it 24-7, sometimes you want that outside view that says ‘Well, keep your eye on the ball here,’ which is what Audrey’s trusted advice always offered.” 

“And that approach is also quintessential to anybody who wants to be meaningfully active in a charity. It’s really vital.” 
“The creation of this award not only encourages STM students who share these values, it also celebrates the value of the Catholic intellectual tradition, and fosters community engagement. By including STM in their giving plans, the legacy of the Blue Mantle lives on through the students who will become leaders in our community” said Kari Sinkewicz, Manager of Development & Alumni Relations. 


Couple’s gift aims to help foster understanding, reconciliation

Michelle and Norm Lipinski

St. Thomas More College is very grateful to Michelle and Norm Lipinski, who recently made a generous gift to support the Chair in Indigenous Spirituality and Reconciliation.

Norm moved to Saskatoon to attend the College of Agriculture in 1978, and soon became a member of the Newman Club, Ulcers lunch co-op and Newman Sounds.

He met his future spouse in the STM cafeteria. Michelle Dinter was also active in the Newman Club. Together they have raised three children (Amy, Melanie and Christina) and now have four grandchildren. Norm recently completed a career as a teacher for Greater Saskatoon Catholic
Schools, while Michelle is still teaching at Holy Cross High School.

The couple has maintained strong ties with STM, including both serving on Corporation. They are members of St. Philip Neri Parish, and have also been strong supporters of Development and Peace – Caritas Canada, the Catholic Church in Canada’s international development agency. Michelle served on its National Council for a number of years. They are dedicated to justice and peace building.

In making the gift, the couple wanted to share their perspective:

“We have always appreciated the work of STM and its focus on the engagement of hearts and minds to guide our journeys in this world. We appreciated what we saw as a seamless connection among the intellectual, emotional and spiritual. STM was where we really began to see faith in action as the people we met here prayed together and played together. Many of the social contacts we made during our years as students here have been maintained through decades.”

“Our consideration of a donation to STM began in the spring of 2021 and coincided with the discoveries of unmarked graves on the sites of former residential school. As we developed more of an awareness of the impact of colonization on our Indigenous people, we felt that, in addition to donating to charities that are working up front on the issues in the community, it was important to consider seed money which would have a greater effect in terms of changing hearts and minds. The STM Chair for Indigenous Spirituality and Reconciliation is an avenue for such growth through the dialogue, teaching and
research it will facilitate.”


Ositis-Schmeiser $1 Million Gift brings STM Centre fully to life

Irene Ositis-Schmeiser (holding flowers), with Gertrude Rompre, Chris Hrynkow, Carl Still, Bishop Mark Hagemoen and Tammy Marche

St. Thomas More College (STM) is pleased to announce a $1 Million gift from Irene Ositis-Schmeiser in support of STM’s Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice.

“This landmark gift will enable STM to establish its new Centre on a solid and lasting footing,” says Dr. Carl Still (PhD), president of St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan (Usask). “The Irene and Doug Schmeiser Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice will draw new students, new researchers, and new community partners to STM. Through the Schmeiser Centre, STM’s unique academic programs will prepare students of all backgrounds to receive an education in the Catholic intellectual tradition, which emphasizes the integration of knowledge and values in an increasingly fragmented world.

More than a decade in the planning, the Centre was officially launched this past January. Director Dr. Chris Hrynkow (PhD) spoke at that time to its goals. “The Centre has a threefold purpose: To serve as a home for STM’s distinctive programs in the areas of Catholic Studies, Critical Perspectives on Social Justice and the Common Good, and Peace Studies; To promote these programs with students, community partners, and faculty; and through outreach to bring the insights and values associated with these programs alive through mutually-enhancing work with community partners.”

Ositis-Schmeiser and late husband Doug, share history and support for the College that go back many decades. Ositis-Schmeiser served 6 years on STM’s Corporation, while Schmeiser was named as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2009 recognizing his lifetime of achievement since graduating from the College. Schmeiser served as Dean at USask College of Law and worked extensively nationally and internationally in the areas of constitutional law, legal reform, human rights, and judicial education. The Doug and Irene Schmeiser Scholarship established in 2000 annually supports STM students majoring in Philosophy. As regular attendees at STM academic lectures, and members of the College worshipping community, “we experienced a sense of community and a wonderful extended family,” says Ositis-Schmeiser.

Ositis-Schmeiser’s gift plans for the College in 2019 were solidified when presented with an update of the Centre development. “The focus and goals of STM’s Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice, along with its dedication to fostering excellence in teaching, research, and community outreach, reflected our values along with our career and volunteer pursuits, and that which strengthened our relationship with the College community over three decades.” said Ositis-Schmeiser of her decision to extend support to the initiative.

While Covid-19 restrictions waylaid earlier planned celebrations for the gift announcement, Kari Sinkewicz, Manager of Development and Alumni Relations, is excited to recognize Ositis-Schmeiser’s generosity and community impact. “Irene has been serving the community through generous volunteerism, advocacy, and donations for years. With this gift providing early, transformative support, Irene brings to life this much-needed Centre, and she is planting the seed of yet another legacy in our community.”

The advisory committee for the new Centre includes community partners along with STM faculty involved in the distinctive program areas. Most Reverend Mark Hagemoen, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, was on hand for the naming installation and announcement, and spoke to the interconnection of the Centre’s programs and impact on extending to goals of Catholic Intellectual tradition in his appreciation for Ositis-Schmeiser’s support. “Faith and reason are mutual partners in Catholic institutions. The Centre at STM will look at how the call to right relationship to all creation, impacts issues of peace and justice.”

Hrynkow reiterated appreciation on behalf of the College community. “Irene’s generous gift provides the critical financial energy to see this work through in a fuller, transformative manner. Indeed, it is a game-changing gift that will help STM College grow its relevancy in key areas of its mission to students and the wider community. I am profoundly grateful to Irene and will work hard in partnership with other stakeholders to build the Centre into something she can be proud for embodying her own deep commitments to Catholic traditions, peace, social justice, and the common good.”

Congratulatory messages (video) from STM Administration and Centre community partners


Ursulines support pursuit of reconciliation at STM

Dr. Carl Still (from left), Sister Anne Lewans and Dr. Gordon Martell

It is with sincere gratitude that St. Thomas More College (STM) celebrates the tremendous generosity of the Ursulines of St. Angela’s Convent for their donation in support of the STM Endowed Chair in Indigenous
Spirituality and Reconciliation.

“This exceptional support enables STM to pursue much more fully the mandate of the Chair to highlight
Indigenous spirituality and pursue reconciliation through the study of Indigenous history, culture, traditions, languages and religious and spiritual practices,” said Dr. Carl Still, President of STM College.

Ursuline Sister Anne Lewans noted, “In making this donation, the Ursulines wish to continue our mission of ‘educating for life’ and also make a concrete gesture toward reconciliation and healing with Indigenous people.”

“The gift of the Ursulines for the STM Endowed Chair in Indigenous Spirituality and Reconciliation is an act of generosity and an extension of a hand of friendship in
a time when we all need to foster critical dialogue and ensure that we are balancing narratives by advantaging Indigenous knowledges and worldviews,” said Dr. Gordon Martell, member of the Indigenous Advisory Circle at STM College.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to the Ursulines of St. Angela’s Convent for the commitment to education
and reconciliation which is so profoundly expressed through this donation.


Sharon and Russ Aney back belief in education with scholarships

Russ and Sharon Aney on a recent visit to STM College

Sharon and Russ Aney look back fondly on their time at STM College.  This past summer they returned with a lasting gift for future generations of STM students. They have created two new ongoing scholarships in their names, to help both an entering student and a continuing student each year.

STM College was the centre of their social universe and where they met in 1963. It was Sharon’s first year at University of Saskatchewan, and STM was a welcoming place to study, relax and meet new people.

Russ was already working toward his Commerce degree and was one of the students who worked at Newman Club’s Ulcers lunch counter. “It was the gathering place between classes for several Commerce students to work on assignments,” he said. STM also offered social events where lasting friendships were formed.

“STM has been close to our hearts from our student days, 55-plus years ago,” said Sharon. “University life is more than studies. Students need to take opportunities to connect with people for friendship, support, leisure, sharing new ideas, enjoying conversation and discussions. For us, this happened mostly at Newman Club.” 

“We are saddened that the current pandemic has curtailed many of these opportunities. We hope and pray that all students will soon be able to return to what used to be the norm on campus”.

While visiting the College this summer, Russ and Sharon reconnected with old friends, Art and Angeline Battiste. The couples walked the halls, studied class pictures, and returned to the STM Chapel. In the Shannon Library they had the chance to peruse Greystone yearbooks of their era, recognizing familiar faces and sharing recollections.

1965 marked a very special milestone. Russ had just graduated and Sharon was between her second and third year of her Bachelor of Arts degree. They were married in St. Mary’s Parish at Lanigan that summer.

In 1967 they moved to Wetaskiwin, Alta., and soon opened their own insurance brokerage. 

Now retired, the couple has lived a great life together. They have worked hard, raised a family and offered their service to their community time and again.

Through the years, Russ volunteered in the community with service clubs, business organizations, their Catholic parish, and with youth sports. He continues actively with the Knights of Columbus and the community theatre board. Sharon has served as a Catholic School trustee, and on the board of the Edmonton Archdiocesan newspaper, The Western Catholic Reporter. She has also been on the board of the local Heritage Museum, and advocates for the Wetaskiwin city archives. In 2000 she was a founding member of the local genealogical society and continues a leadership role in it.

Since both have always valued education, and since STM has been close to their hearts from their own student days, it was an easy decision for Sharon and Russ to give back to the college with the new scholarships.

They hope that future recipients of the Russ and Sharon Aney Scholarships -- worth $2,000 each -- will have the ability to enjoy, participate in and complete their programs with less financial anxiety.

“Education is always valuable,” said Sharon. “I believe my general education has been of lifelong benefit to me and to my community. It has given me the tools to look beyond the obvious statements and to consider the issues.” 

“An employer once told me, ‘I don’t care if you do not have a degree in this field. Your degree shows me that you can think, and I can teach you what you need to know to work here.’ ”

Russ and Sharon have some advice to current STM students: “Volunteer! …  as a student, and especially after you graduate. Share your talents. The personal benefits you receive are surprising. You will learn so much, you will enjoy successes, and you will develop new circles of acquaintances and friends.”


Ezekiel-Marche Scholarship created to aid students in need

In honor of the hard work and dedication of her parents, Margaret Marche has set up a new scholarship at St. Thomas More College in their memory.

The Ezekiel-Marche Scholarship will provide one STM student each year with $1,000 to help further their education. The selection will be based on academic achievement as well as financial need, as determined by the College’s Scholarship and Awards Committee.

Margaret Marche said she is extremely proud of her parents, Frederick and Veronica Ezekiel, for their hard work, dedication, and courage in the face of hardship.

“They worked tirelessly raising a family of 11 children and through all the difficult and uncertain times, the family was always loved and cared for,” said Marche.

The Ezekiel family is originally from the mining community of Bell Island, Newfoundland. Frederick Ezekiel went to work at a very young age at the iron ore mines and continued working there until they closed, which was a devastating loss.

At the age of 49, he made the courageous decision to move to Ontario to find employment since he still had to provide for a large family. He found gainful employment shortly after arriving and was then able to bring the rest of his family to Ontario, leaving behind their beloved homeland of Bell Island. The Ezekiels lived and worked in Ontario until Frederick retired at the age of 65, only returning to Bell Island for an occasional visit.

Veronica always made sure that homework was completed and that the children were always ready to attend school each morning. Margaret said she remembers her mother, after working hard all day, sitting for hours around the kitchen table late into the evening helping her children with their lessons.

“She also always made sure that school uniforms were washed, pressed, and ready to be worn to school the next day.”

Dr. Tammy Marche, Acting Dean of STM, is the granddaughter of Frederick and Veronica Ezeliel, and Brittany Marche-Shears, who is a student at STM, is their great granddaughter.

These connections to STM, and a heartfelt commitment to ensuring that students are able to pursue their education, inspired Margaret to establish the Ezekiel-Marche Scholarship Fund at St. Thomas More College in loving memory of her beloved parents.


Belief in value of education behind planned gift

Rosemarie Wrobel

“Knowledge is power”

 -  a quote from Thomas Jefferson, which he used at least four times in connection to the establishment of a state university in Virginia


The question I am addressing:  Why do I financially contribute to STM and is this important?

I feel so blessed that I had the opportunity to receive my education at STM, a very special and unique college.  And I am grateful that I received at scholarship for my first year at STM.

My Polish parents were passionate about education and so were their ancestors.  My grandparents immigrated to Canada in 1902 to homestead in Saskatchewan.  They donated land from their home quarter to build the first school and church in their area.

Fast forward to 2021, an era where knowledge is increasing at an ever accelerating rate and creating a “knowledge explosion”.  Our knowledge is doubling every thirteen months and it is predicted that the digital age will increase this speed to a doubling of knowledge every twelve hours.  This massive amount of information, as well as, the turbulent social and political change we are experiencing today is putting us into “information overload.”

This why I feel education is one of our most empowering tools.  Education helps to build confidence and education helps to sharpen our reasoning and problem solving skills.  Education gives us a creative edge by building our critical thinking skills which enables us to plough through this massive amount of information with grace and ease.   Education equips us with discerning tools which help us to evaluate this massive amount of information and then enables us to make better choices.

This is why I am passionate about education and by contributing financially to STM I am part of the solution rather than the problem. I would like to create my legacy by contributing financially to STM.  I feel my support helps the college to create opportunities and an environment for students to learn.  “Knowledge is power” but the ability to act on knowledge and make informed choices is really the power.  And this is why I am passionate about supporting our college.  And I am confident that our STM college can use this assistance to create opportunities for many students to receive an education.

Together, we can make a difference.  Many blessing, peace, love and joy.

Rosemarie Wrobel, BA., M.S.W.


Henry Remai Emergency Student Bursary Endowment

Henry Remai

Henry Remai never forgot the empty chair in his first-year university class in 1958.
Remai was a young man from Carrot River attending the University of Saskatchewan working toward his Bachelor’s degree. He would later add a B. Ed at USask, and then go on to earn a Master of Education degree from the University of Alberta.
A long and distinguished career as an educator in Saskatoon's Catholic School Division would follow, but he never forgot that empty chair.
“In my first year at university, a student that I had met in my class suddenly disappeared,” said Remai. “Nobody really knew what happened. I ran into him many years later, and he explained that he had just run out of resources and had to leave. He said ‘I had no money and no place to stay. No money for rent, food or anything.’
“That has never left my mind,” said Remai.
That memory is why he made a donation to the college in 2017 to create two new STM bursaries for students in financial need.
Annual tuition and fees for Arts & Sciences students tally more than $6,000, so the new bursaries provided vital funding for the educational journey of each deserving STM recipient since then.
Remai said financial crises among students happen much more than many people realize.
“And now that things are tough again, I thought ‘Well, I have the ability to do something about it and I should.’ ”
Remai is investing in the bright futures of students at STM through a generous gift of $100,000 to establish the Henry Remai Emergency Student Bursary Endowment.
Kari Sinkewicz, Manager of Development & Alumni Relations at STM, said Remai will be passing along best wishes to each new recipient, with the reminder to ‘Remember that all is possible with God's help so persevere in following your dreams.’
“The impact of receiving financial support through his bursary and the caring faith expressed in these words of encouragement could be the tipping point towards a lifetime of success for our students,” Sinkewicz said. “We never know when our words or actions will transform a life.”
His long career as a dedicated high school teacher imbued Remai with an appreciation for the value of an education. He doesn’t want to see anyone left behind.
“The great motivation is to help these students that are in need – sometimes desperate need.”
“It’s rather tragic if a student has to drop out near the end of term because of a lack of funds after spending a great deal of time, energy and money to get to that point. And if they have to drop out they lose everything in the process,” he said.
Henry Remai does not like to see an empty chair.


Les and Irene Dubé establish Chair for Catholic Studies

Les and Irene Dubé have been long-time supporters of STM College

The Leslie and Irene Dubé Chair for Catholic Studies was established in fall 2012 by St. Thomas More College (STM), to provide intellectual leadership for STM and the broader Catholic community through the discipline of Catholic Studies.

The Chair, made possible by Leslie and Irene Dubé’s $1 Million endowment to the College, supports scholarship and research related to Catholic teaching and tradition, fosters Catholic education, and promotes ecumenical dialogue and awareness of other faith traditions.

The Leslie and Irene Dubé Chair for Catholic Studies also sponsors an annual lecture in Catholic Studies exploring topics related to faith and the intellectual life, ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, and Catholic reflections on current issues. Through this lecture series, distinguished scholars engage with key issues of our time and bring the Catholic tradition into dialogue with contemporary culture.

Les, as a member of the STM Board, also initiated STM’s For All Seasons fundraising campaign in 1990. He served on the three-person campaign steering committee, offering informed and judicious advice to the president of the College, Dr. John Thompson.

"Les ensured the success of the College’s first fundraising since the mid-1950s," said Dr. Thompson.  "He was insistent the College establish a regular fundraising office and helped choose Don Gorsalitz as STM’s first fundraising director."

In 1994, STM publicly celebrated Mr. Leslie Dubé with the St. Thomas More Medal, which was established to recognize and honour persons, groups of persons, and organizations which have combined personal qualities of care, integrity, and faith with significant contributions to community and public life.