"I was lucky to find a job as a librarian at Lakehead University in 1970—the year the cities of Port Arthur and Fort William joined to create Thunder Bay," Lynn Barber says.
Lynn, who's originally from Montreal, quickly built a fulfilling life in the north.
"It was the perfect time to be at the university because the staff and faculty were new and there was a strong camaraderie. It was like a family. You could pick up the phone and the switchboard operator would know your name."
Lakehead also became a family for Lynn in a literal sense—he met his wife Barbara DePaola, now a retired library technician, at work.
Lynn's time in the Paterson Library was spent as a cataloguer.
"I prepared catalogue entries for books and other resources. Often, this meant generating records out of whole cloth, especially when I was dealing with rare or little documented books and other media. For instance, I catalogued pamphlets printed in the 1800s by the Fabian Society, a British socialist group."
Lynn's office was initially on the first floor of the library, right behind the card catalogue—a large filing cabinet filled with paper records on index cards (now replaced by computers), before moving to the basement and, finally, to the sixth floor of the library.
"The top floor was a great location—except for the pigeons—because our offices looked out onto Lake Superior," Lynn says.
Lynn was also a negotiator with the Lakehead University Faculty Association. Lynn and Barbara's contributions to the University, however, have extended far beyond their professional lives.
For over three decades their compassion and generosity have helped students continue their education—including by creating three endowed student awards commemorating colleagues who've passed away.
"We've mostly donated in honour of people behind the scenes who supported the faculty and administration at Lakehead," Lynn says.
In 1991, the couple established the George I. Dawosyr Memorial Award to celebrate one of Lynn's closest friends and colleagues.
"I worked across from George in the cataloguing department," Lynn says. "He was a happy-go-lucky guy and very knowledgeable about forestry. He'd also mastered five languages: Russian, old Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and English. George was born at the end of WWI in what's now Ukraine. He and his wife Irene immigrated to Canada in the 1950s after World War II left them refugees."
In 2020, Lynn and Barbara established the Levonna "Bonny" Wigmore Memorial Scholarship to recognize the contributions of Lakehead's former paymaster, Board of Governors member, and executive member of the Retirees' Association of Lakehead University.
"Bonny had a way of keeping LU personnel together. Whenever you had a difficulty with your contract or pension or received a promotion, she was extremely helpful and reassuring," Lynn says.
Most recently, in 2021, Lynn and Barbara established the Linda Phillips Memorial Bursary. Linda was an outstanding secretary to five Lakehead presidents during her 40-year-career at the University.
"Linda assisted staff and the faculty," Lynn says. "She was very efficient, outgoing, and knowledgeable. She always had the information you needed at her fingertips."
Lynn says that it's been a privilege to acknowledge individuals who were important to him and Barbara during their careers.
"We wanted to give back for the wonderful experiences we had at Lakehead."
Your kindness can empower young people. Visit lakeheadu.ca/donate to make a gift to the George I. Dawosyr Memorial Award, the Levonna "Bonny" Wigmore Memorial Scholarship, or the Linda Phillips Memorial Bursary.