Alumni Giving Back: Meet the Chiassons

Alumni Keith Chiasson has been fortunate to work for many different organizations in a sector that has allowed him to travel around the world and build a successful career. Choosing to work in the oil and gas industry, he knew it would lead to an exciting and rewarding career. But, what he didn’t realize was that this sector would provide him and his wife, Michelle (Schurman), the opportunity to give back to CBU and to Cape Breton Island in a meaningful and impactful way.

Keith and Michelle, now living in Calgary, Alberta, both attended Riverview Rural High School in Coxheath and were high school sweethearts. After graduation, Michelle made the decision to attend Carleton University in Ottawa to pursue journalism. Keith decided to stay close to home and attend the then University College of Cape Breton (UCCB).

“Making the decision to stay home and attend UCCB was an easy one for me,” says Keith. “My father attended Xavier Junior College, and my three brothers and sister attended UCCB as well. They all had great student experiences, and I wanted to keep the family tradition going.”

Going to UCCB from high school allowed for an easy transition to university for Keith. Being able to take the first two years of his engineering degree from home allowed him to continue playing hockey for the popular Sydney Millionaires team, save some money and gain a strong foundation for what would become an incredibly successful career in the engineering field.

Keith and Michelle have had the fortunate opportunity to live and work across Canada and North America. No matter where their work and careers took them, whenever they met up with other Cape Bretoners, there was always a strong connection to home.

Cenovus Energy, where Keith works, has a generous and well-established employee matching gift program. This means that the company will match donations made by their employees to a charity of their choice. When the time came for Keith and Michelle to make their gift through this matching program, they spoke extensively about their connection to home and the importance of education.

“We come back to Cape Breton often and always reflect on our fond memories of high school and the significance of Cape Breton University to the Island. We felt that this was the area we wanted to leave our legacy by setting up a scholarship,” says Keith. “We met with CBU and, very quickly, the plans came together to establish a scholarship to support future CBU students and assist them in achieving a post-secondary education.”

Not only is the connection to Cape Breton Island strong, but the connection to Cape Breton University is also important to many members of the community, even if you did not study here.

“We both grew up in Cape Breton, and many of our friends went to the University as well. My oldest sister, Kelly, who battled with leukemia, attended CBU. For her and my family, being close to home for health care and being able to study at an academic institution was so important,” says Michelle. “Growing up, both of us did so many activities at CBU, from sports to day camps, so we feel a strong connection to the campus.”

Keith and Michelle have children attending university and understand what it’s like for both the parents of students and the students themselves.

“We get it. The financial burden of a university education can be tough for both students and their parents,” says Michelle. “CBU is a backbone for Cape Breton Island students. We are thrilled to be able to play a part in this and to give back to an institution that played such a key role in our early education.”

To find out more on supporting Cape Breton University, visit