The Masonic Higher Education Bursary Fund recognizes, promotes and supports excellence in education for the benefit of humanity.
Historically, Freemasons have always believed that Education is the key to social and economic advancement and have always encouraged members to seek more information..."you are to make the liberal arts and sciences your future study."
In 1956 Grand Master, Ross Sheppard, who was a well-known educator, realized that Alberta was rapidly changing from an agricultural to an industrial society. History shows that whenever an agricultural society has been industrialized, a fairly standard series of events usually occur. First, large investments needed to build the infrastructure and develop the resource base cause an economic boom. The usually not very well educated farm based labour pool is tapped to do the work and they become the initial industrial work force. This work force usually becomes reasonably well off and urbanized.
Children of the newly urbanized work force usually follow one of several educational routes. The children's choice of path depends on, native ability, family traditions of respect for learning and social and environmental factors including good schools and religious institutions. The more able or more focused children excel at school and assuming adequate funding, will move on to some form of professional or entrepreneurial career. The less focused or perhaps less able children usually follow their parents into some aspect of the industrial labour pool, but because of greater competition and technical advances they find they must have a better education, often technical, than their parents needed. When the first phase of industrialization passes as the easily available raw resources become exhausted, the new industrial society must turn to more advanced technological enterprises and the very extensive research needed to support them. The society moves from materials production to services, research, consulting and specialty manufacturing. A much more advanced academic or technical education becomes necessary to command a good job.
In Alberta we seem to be into the beginning of this second phase of our industrial development and very good levels of education are becoming essential to realize meaningful employment and a secure career in this very competitive technical industrial environment.
However, Higher Education is very expensive, and often beyond the financial resources of many worthy students and their families. To help address that problem and to give The Grand Lodge a visible Outreach Charity which would help to promote the good reputation of Freemasons in the Province, MW Bro. Ross Sheppard led in establishing the Masonic Higher Education Bursary Fund. The first four bursaries were awarded in 1959.
Later, it was changed to a Registered Charity (Number 07447153RR000l) so that tax receipts could be issued for all donations. Since that time it has been funded by donations from individual Freemasons, Masonic Clubs and Concordant Bodies, Memorial Donations, Bequests placed in Wills and gifts from the public. The day to day operational expenses of the fund are paid by the Grand Lodge of Alberta. No expenses are taken from the donations, memorials or bequests directed to the Fund.
It should be understood that Bursaries are not Scholarships. Bursaries are given to worthy students who are in financial need, so they can get some type of post secondary education (of at least 2 academic years in length) and achieve their full potential as productive, well informed members of society.
Bursary cheques will be sent to the institution he or she is attending and will be credited to their account. They are usually used to help pay tuition fees, or buy books. One student wrote to thank Grand Lodge saying, "Now I will be able to eat; my budget was so tight that food was quite uncertain before your generous gift".
From time to time the Bursary amount is raised in an attempt to offset the rapid rise in tuition fees at all post secondary institutions in Alberta. Masonic Bursaries were never expected to cover the total cost of tuition but it is hoped that they may continue to be of significant assistance to many worthy students.
The Freemasons of this jurisdiction are to be congratulated for the major fund raising they do to support the Bursary program. This is one of the largest privately funded Bursary programs in Alberta and the Northwest Territories and should be a source of great pride to all Freemasons within this jurisdiction. It should certainly help to answer the question: “What do Freemasons do?”
Biography of Most Worshipful Brother Ross Stanley Sheppard:
Ross Stanley Sheppard was born in Bellhaven, Ontario on November 27, 1888. He attended his public schooling in Ontario. He attended the University of Toronto where he was a brilliant scholar, graduated with honours and also received the Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal in Physics. Ross Sheppard was also awarded a fellowship at the University of California. While at University he enjoyed athletics, particularly track and field, and was an acclaimed player and sprinter of some note. He also participated in baseball, basketball and tennis.
In 1909, Ross Sheppard took a teaching position at Meeting Creek, AB. and 1 year later taught at Wanda, AB. He entered race competitions at many sports’ meets and picnics in the area where he thrilled the spectators with his speed.
In 1924, he represented Canada in the Hop, Step and Jump event of the Paris Olympic Games at the age of 36 years. He did not win a medal. In later years he would appear in the record books as Dominion Champion in the standing high jump with a mark of 5’-1 ½” established in 1924 which still stands. In recognition of his athletics, the name of Ross Sheppard was entered into the Edmonton and Alberta Sports’ Hall of Fame in 1961.
In 1913, Ross Sheppard was appointed to the position of Mathematical Master at Strathcona Collegiate Institution and in 1920 appointed principal of the Collegiate which position he held for 18 years.
In 1938, Ross Sheppard was the successful applicant in a field of 12 candidates for the position of Assistant Superintendent of the Edmonton Public School Board. He held this position for two years before being appointed the Superintendent. During his time as the Superintendent, the school system saw exceptional growth with many schools being built. During this growing period he was a major influence in the provision of good gymnasiums and sufficient playground space at the schools. He retired in 1955.
Two years after his retirement a new school bearing his name was opened in Edmonton on the Northwest corner of 111 Avenue and 135 Street, a fitting tribute to an educator who served as a teacher, principal, and Superintendent for 42 years.
Ross Sheppard was married to Mary and raised a family of two daughters, Doris and Ruth. Ross Sheppard died on September 4, 1961. He is forever remembered by his Brothers within Freemasonry.
Biography of Lauraine Doreen Douchet:
Lauraine was born in the farming community of Glendon, Alberta. She was the second child of Alexandra and Metro Hutzkal and little sister to Ed. Lauraine learned the value of hard work early from her parents because they both worked outside of the home. Her work ethic was part of what ultimately made Lauraine the successful and respected professional she was.
In grade school, Lauraine had the opportunity to meet the pharmacist in Grande Centre, Alberta. She was struck by the white coat and professional demeanour portrayed by this woman. That pharmacist became the vision to what Lauraine aspired.
Lauraine attended the University of Alberta where she received her Bachelor of Science, Pharmacy in 1971. She started her professional career in Peace River, Alberta where she worked in retail and then in the hospital pharmacy. It was there that she met her future husband, George Douchet, a local physician and one of the first recipients of the MHEBF in 1959.
George and Lauraine relocated to Sherwood Park, Alberta in 1981. Lauraine took a position at the Cross Cancer Institute where she worked full-time for the next 26 years. She worked in the pharmacy, with the patients and her colleagues, on the wards, did special projects, co-published papers, and ultimately won awards for her work. Lauraine’s dedication, compassion, and professionalism were greatly valued and highly respected by all who knew her.
She was the epitome of her childhood vision who had once inspired her. She went above and beyond the call of the average pharmacist. She was a researcher in the fight against cancer; the disease, ironically, that ultimately took her life in 2009.
Biography of George (Matt) Mathews:
George was born at Waterhole, two miles south of Fairview, on February 8, 1919. Waterhole is where his grandfather, who emigrated from Germany, lived. While his father, who was a stevedore at the London Docks, emigrated from the UK, and in partnership with H. A. George helped to build the Peace Hotel in Peace River.
Brother George Mathews is a very youthful man in his mid 90's with a cheerful and very happy disposition. Simply he personifies the ideals of a freemason. A former member of Norwood Lodge No. 90 he was initiated into Freemasonry March 20, 1984 at the age of 64 years old. Currently, he attends Joppa Lodge No. 112 of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon.
His belief in post-secondary education is so strong, he has willed approximately $2 million of his estate to pay for Peace Country high school graduates to get a post-secondary education. In his own words, "The future of this country will belong to those who are educated to do something about it. And there is one important thing education gives you - Self-discipline."