How Athol Murray Changed My Life

As a 17-year-old, having just finished high school, I was destined to work at a garage in North Portal, Saskatchewan, run by my Dad's lifelong friend.  The long-range plan was for me to eventually take over the business and spend my life in my tiny hometown.

Athol Murray changed all that in one afternoon.

When my next door neighbour and Grade 12 classmate asked me to accompany him to Notre Dame where he had enrolled in the Arts program, I jumped at the opportunity to spend the day travelling and enjoying part of our last summer together.  When we arrived in Wilcox that Sunday afternoon, Père invited us in for a brief conversation - which lasted four hours.

During our visit to his messy but fascinating office, Père regaled us with wild tales from history, Canadian politics, sports and Notre Dame life.  At the end of the conversation,  he learned that I was not coming to Notre Dame because my parents lacked the money (about $400 in those days) to send me.  No one in my family had attended post-secondary schooling, and in fact had not finished high school.

Père must have spotted something in me and he offered me what he called a "Notre Dame scholarship", which really meant I could attend the College for free.  Overwhelmed, I could hardly contain myself as we drove home.  I wanted my friend to speed but he sensibly followed the rules.

My parents couldn't believe it, but they bought me several new shirts, a new pair of pants and gave me $5.00 spending money for the month.  Three days later, I arrived on the dusty streets of Wilcox and found my bunk in a converted granary with 5 other Hounds.

Three years later, I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts, then attended the University of Ottawa to obtain my Bachelor of Education, and followed up with graduate studies in three other universities.  When I graduated, I returned to Notre Dame where I taught for five years in both the Arts program and the high school, becoming the principal of the high school when I was 28 years of age.

I now have taught full and part-time for over 50 years at college and university, and as well as an active career in academia, I spent 29 years training filmmakers in the Canadian film and television industry.  My career has taken me to engagements across Canada and to several international countries.

Père made all of that possible, and I am only one of the many girls and boys whose lives he changed by his generous and inspirational deeds.


Tom Shoebridge  1959-62 Notre Dame Arts

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