Today, Cape Breton University is mourning the significant loss of a woman who can be credited with changing the social justice landscape of our country, Dr. Wanda Robson.
Wanda Robson was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was a single mother who worked hard to raise her family and, later in her life, would marry her loving and doting husband, Joe Robson. In 2004, at the age of 76, Wanda graduated from Cape Breton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, fulfilling her lifelong dream of pursuing a university education. Wanda was also given an honorary degree from CBU in 2014 for her efforts in ensuring her sister’s legacy would not be lost to history.
Wanda has become known as the youngest sister of Viola Desmond, who challenged the practice of racial segregation in a New Glasgow, Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946. Wanda has been a steady and forceful voice for social justice in her sister’s name for more than 20 years.
Never wanting the spotlight and known for her deep-rooted determination, Wanda sparked a national wave of social justice activism that started with the history-making Mercy Free Pardon of Viola Desmond by former Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor, Mayann Francis, to the Viola’s portrait on the Canadian $10 banknote.
Wanda has spoken to thousands of people across the country, from students to academics, sharing her sister’s story and, in the process, inspiring many to overcome hardships associated with racial equality and doing so with pride, enthusiasm and grit.
Wanda will always hold a special connection with Cape Breton University. From her time as a student to her endless guidance and advice and the recent establishment of the Wanda Robson Scholarships, Wanda’s legacy will be a reminder to us all of the importance of continuing social justice work and our dedication to diversity and equity.
Wanda Robson is a true inspiration and an exceptional example of a strong, black woman who made the most of life’s circumstances. She will be greatly missed by many. Let us honour Wanda in the days to come, and always, by raising our voices against racial injustice.
Please join me in extending heartfelt condolences to Joe, and Wanda’s family.
Yours very truly,
David C. Dingwall
President & Vice-Chancellor