Cape Breton University is honoured to celebrate the passion, drive, spirit and dedication of an extraordinary woman, Wanda Robson. She is a hard-working, well-respected and inspirational community leader whose determination continues to make a difference in the lives of many.
Wanda Robson was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was a single mother who worked hard to raise her family. In 2004, at the age of 76, Ms Robson graduated from Cape Breton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, fulfilling her lifelong dream of pursuing a university education.
Ms Robson has become known as the youngest sister of Viola Desmond, a woman who challenged the practice of racial segregation in a New Glasgow, Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946. The struggle Viola fought was a tough one, and like her sister, Ms Robson has faced similar stuggles for racial equality in Canada. But, she like so many others, has overcome the hardships associated with racial discrimination and has achieved much success in her life, doing so with pride and enthusiasm.
Since graduating from CBU, MS Robson has become an active spokesperson for the African Nova Scotia community, giving dozens of talks at schools and community events throughout the province and on CBC Radio. One thing that can be said about Ms Robson is that she is determined. It is that determination and grit which in 2008, led her to initiate public awareness of the circumstances surrounding her sister’s arrest in 1946. As a result, in large part, to this effort, in April 2010, the Nova Scotia Legislature enacted an unprecedented Mercy Free Pardon for Viola Desmond. In August of that same year, the town of New Glasgow installed a commemorative plaque in honour of Viola.
Ms Robson is a true inspiration and an example of making the most of life’s circumstances and turning them around into something positive and meaningful. In 2010, Ms Robson also launched a book, Sister of Courage, which recounts her own life.
Ms Robson resides in North Sydney, NS, with her husband, Joe. The couple has five children, all of whom are here today, together as one for the first time in 30 years.
Today, Cape Breton University confers the degree Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on a woman who personifies the values of a university education both as a means for self-improvement and as an instrument for social justice, Wanda Eloise Robson.