The Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice is founded in honor of Viola Desmond, Canada’s civil rights icon, who challenged the practice of racial segregation in Nova Scotia when she refused to leave her seat in a white’s only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow in 1946.
The Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice builds on the strengths of CBU and its relationship to the wider community. Since its inception, CBU has extended the opportunity for obtaining a university education to all those who seek it. Perhaps no one symbolizes this vision better than Wanda Robson, the youngest sister of Viola Desmond. In 2003, Wanda, at the age of 73, entered CBU in order to pursue her life-long dream of obtaining a university education and in 2007, Wanda graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
As the first Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice, Dr. Graham Reynolds, Professor of History, envisions the Chair as an instrument to promote education both as a means of self-improvement and in relation to educating Canadians about the broader issues of social justice. Dr. Reynolds’ research focuses on developing educational resources for teachers and in raising awareness about social justice issues through research, publications and public events. As Chair, Dr. Reynolds is also spearheading the establishment of the Viola Desmond/Wanda Robson Student Scholarship and Bursary Award.
The Viola Desmond Story
The Viola Desmond and Wanda Robson Scholarship Campaign
This scholarship initiative would embody the qualities of character, commitment and life experiences of Viola and Wanda. The scholarship would stress the themes of social justice and education with a particular emphasis on CBU’s inclusiveness in relation to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, class, and physical disability, etc.
The development of educational resources for schools across Canada
This initiative capitalizes on the national historical significance of the lives of Viola Desmond and Wanda Robson. It also coincides with the recent events surrounding the pardon of Viola Desmond and the publication of Wanda’s book Sister to Courage. CBU is in an advantaged position to produce a series of educational resources that, through target marketing, would have national appeal. This initiative would be conducted in tandem with the scholarship campaign and revenues from the sale of educational resources could contribute to the scholarship fund.
Dr. Graham Reynolds
Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice
Cape Breton University