Clotilda Adessa Coward Douglas Yakimchuk

Cape Breton University is honoured to celebrate the distinguished career and exemplary record of community service of Clotilda Yakimchuk, a retired nursing professional, mentor, activist and role model, who has made significant contributions to her profession and to her community.

Clotilda Yakimchuk was born and raised in Whitney Pier, Nova Scotia. In 1954, she became the first Black graduate of the Nova Scotia Hospital School of Nursing. She also received a post graduate midwifery diploma from Colony Hospital, Grenada, West Indies, a post graduate psychiatric nursing certificate from the Nova Scotia Hospital and a diploma in adult education from St.FX University.

Ms. Yakimchuk spent 50 years in the nursing profession. She began her career as Head Nurse of the Admission/Discharge Unit of the Nova Scotia Hospital. From there she moved to Grenada, West Indies, where she was the Director of Nursing at the Psychiatric Hospital. Ms. Yakimchuk moved back to Canada in 1967, where she took a position as Staff Nurse at the Sydney City Hospital. She later became Nursing Supervisor and later Director of Staff Development at the Cape Breton Hospital. She then served as Director of Education Services at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital until her retirement from nursing in 1994.

Commitment to the nursing profession has always been evident in Ms. Yakimchuk. Her passion and commitment were exemplified when she served as President of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Nova Scotia (now known as The College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia). Notably, she is this organization’s only elected Black president in 100 years of the organization history to date. She is a proponent of education and lifelong learning and was an exceptional role model to the many nurses who followed in her path. In addition to her work as President, she served on numerous national, provincial and local committees and working groups.

Outside of the nursing profession, Ms. Yakimchuk is a well respected community activist and has left an indelible mark on her community. She was the founding President of the Black Community Development Organization, leading the movement to provide affordable housing in low-income communities. She is also committed to education for Black youth and is a determined fundraiser and mentor.

The great and varied contributions Ms. Yakimchuk has made to her community and the nursing profession have been duly recognized. In 2003, she received the Order of Canada; she is also a member of the Nova Scotia Black Hall of Fame and in 1991, received the national Harry Jerome Award in acknowledgement of her cultural and community achievements. Additionally, she was a recipient of the College of Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia Centennial Award of Distinction and an Honorary Diploma from the Nova Scotia Community College.

M. Yakimchuk is also a proponent and friend of Cape Breton University. She played a significant role in the University campaign to offer its own nursing degree. As chair of a committee of the Cape Breton Retired Nurses Interest Group, she played a key role in the creation of a book to tell the stories of the nursing history of Cape Breton. As a member of the Group, Ms Yakimchuk helped to create an award at CBU to help future nurses with the expense of a post-secondary education. The Award is to be funded through proceeds from the sale of the book.

Cape Breton University conferred the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on a woman who has inspired countless nurses, helped numbers of people in her community and who continues to spread her message of positivity to all she meets, Ms. Clotilda Adessa Coward Douglas Yakimchuk.