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Life well lived

A bequest from the late Margaret Banks is leaving a lasting legacy at Western

July 10, 2013

A bequest from the late Margaret Banks is leaving a lasting legacy
For almost three decades, the late Margaret Banks served as Western's law librarian. Through a bequest in her will, she is leaving a lasting legacy at the University.

By all accounts, the late Margaret Banks was a stickler for detail. The former law librarian at Western could spend three days researching a fact that would end up as just a footnote in a book she was writing.

“Margaret was a scholar at heart, and meticulous in her approach,” says Marianne Welch, remembering her close friend and longtime law library colleague. “Her insistence on being absolutely sure sometimes slowed her down, but it didn’t stop her from finishing her work.”

“Appreciation for everything”
Her resolute spirit is exemplified by Margaret’s decision to leave a bequest of more than $900,000 to Western.

Extraordinary Legacy

“She had confidence that Western would use her gift to do good things,” says Robert Stoddart, her lawyer and friend. “Margaret also wanted to show her generous appreciation for everything the University gave her.”

A new career path
Margaret completed a PhD in constitutional history in 1953 at the University of Toronto, and she was told no university would hire a female historian. She worked as an archivist for a time, but found it unfulfilling.

In 1960 she approached James Talman, the chief librarian at Western, to ask for advice in becoming a librarian. He offered her a job at Western’s law library, becoming the second librarian at Western Law (even though she didn’t hold a law or library science degree).

Textbook on legal research
With warmth and humour, she assisted law students in their research. In 1971, she wrote Using a Law Library to help future and current lawyers navigate legal resources. “Margaret felt they needed to know how to conduct research,” says Marianne. “After six editions, the book became the standard in Canada for teaching them how to find what they needed.”

Margaret was the first female to hold a faculty appointment at Western Law (she was also a faculty member in the department of history). After 28 years, she retired as Western’s law librarian in 1989 to pursue her passion – writing.

“Yours for life”
In retirement, she wrote almost every day, poring over her research to produce scholarly books, articles and reviews.

“Margaret continued her writing until just before she died, but sadly there is one project she didn’t finish – her autobiography,” adds Marianne. “She was devoted to her work and to her friends. When she became your friend, she was yours for life. I was blessed to count her as one of my dearest friends.”

To learn more about including Western in your estate plans, contact our Gift Planning Officers: Jane Edwards (519.661.2111, ext. 88829) or Mike O'Hagan (519.661.2111, ext. 85595).

This article appeared in the Summer 2013 edition of Impact Western
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