Diane and Ron Watson are celebrating 40 years of marriage in July 2018 but instead of focusing on themselves, they are concentrating on the next generation.
Over the last few years, the Thunder Bay couple have established seven funds at Lakehead that have benefitted our students and varsity athletes as well as students in need of emergency funding due to personal or financial hardships. The Watsons have ensured the sustainability of these funds through a gift in their will - allowing them to leave a lasting legacy.
Why are they such unwavering and generous supporters of Lakehead students? "I want to be a role model who motivates other community members to donate to young peoples' education," Diane says. "We want to leave a legacy of good," Ron adds.
The couple are longstanding advocates of a university education. Diane a Lakehead alumna, believes that "postsecondary education teaches critical thinking and fosters a more resilient society." Ron, for his part, is convinced that "university opens up a lot of career fields and gives you control over your life."
Their committment to Lakehead is rooted in their own experiences - both Diane and Ron faced major financial hurdles on the road to university. Diane's family teetered on the edge of poverty. "I never saw my father because he had two jobs," she says, "and my mother was blind so I had to help take care of her."
Things weren't any easier when she was at Lakehead. "I had a full program of arts, science, and practical work as well as a job." Diane says. "I was so stressed." Despite those challenges, she graduate in 1971 at the top of her class with a diploma in Library Technology and then worked in Lakehead's Faculty of Education library. "It was definitely the best job I ever had."
Ron, who is a York university grad, was confronted by similar obstacles and at one point had to drop out of school until he could earn more tuition money. "I was a jock in university and sports were the only thing that relieved stress."
Diane and Ron would go on to run an extremely successful pizza business before selling it and retiring while still in their 50s. The two became active volunteers and philanthropists dedicated to community service. "Our philosophy is to help others and hope that someday they will be in a position to pay it forward," Ron explains.
"Our family is the family of man," Diane says. "People should remember that you can't take money with you, so why not use it for the betterment of others?" She also has some advice for graduating students and alumni. "Find a job that's your passion and you'll be happy for the rest of your life."
Thank you Diane and Ron Watson for Leaving a Lakehead Legacy:
- Diane & Ron Watson Bursary
- Diane Buhlman Scholarship in Education
- Diane and Ron Watson Emergency Bursary
- Diane and Ron Watson First Responder Bursary
- Shirley and Fred Buhlman Athletic Scholarship
- Diane and Ron Watson Student Athlete Enhancement Fund
- Diane and Ron Watson Student Athlete Mental Health Fund
What kind of legacy would you like to create?
Please call Lee-Anne Camlin, Philanthropy Associate, for more information.