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Practical philanthropy

Western alumna and bequest donor Nanci Harris believes in the importance of giving back when, where – and how – you can

by Krista Habermehl, MA'05 | August 11, 2015

Practical philanthropy
Nanci Harris, BScN’83, MLIS’87, gives back to Western in a number of ways, including through a bequest in her Will.

While making a bequest may not be top of mind when considering a charitable donation, for Nanci Harris, BScN’83, MLIS’87, it was an easy and very practical decision.

“Although I do make smaller donations when I can, I’m currently not in a position to direct significant funds to Western. I still have a daughter in university and I need to make sure I’ll be in a position to retire before I’m 80,” says Ms. Harris, with a laugh.

In spite of her current financial commitments, Ms. Harris, who works in Toronto for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario as a manager of practice assessment and enhancement, made provisions in her Will for a donation in support of Western’s Nursing Department, in the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

“It’s a privilege to have a Western education and I’m committed to seeing future students benefit from the same level of quality in teaching and education that I was fortunate to receive,” she says. “It’s also nice to know that, while it may not be realized today, I’m leaving a gift that will have an impact down the road.”

Ms. Harris, whose family ties to London, Ont. run deep – her grandfather was a dairy farmer who owned the land that Westmount Mall and Saunders Secondary School now occupy – credits Western for giving her the skills and abilities to navigate a rewarding but uncharted career path in information management, community development and fundraising in the field of addiction and mental health.

After graduating with her MLIS in 1987, four years after completing a nursing degree, Ms. Harris moved to Toronto to take on a role as Director of Information Services at the Donwood Institute, which was, at the time, the largest residential drug and alcohol treatment centre in Canada. It was a “trial by fire” situation for the recent graduate, who was tasked with managing four different departments and a $250,000 budget. But, it served as a springboard for where she is in her career today.

“The skills I developed as a nurse and the skill set I acquired from library sciences aren’t all that dissimilar. Both have provided me with an excellent foundation to segue into a variety of roles,” she says. “I recently realized that the last three jobs I had taken on were new and had never been done before. Having that skill set has made me very flexible about taking on new challenges.”

For Ms. Harris, giving back is something she feels compelled to do, both financially and as a volunteer. As a young graduate, she mentored high school students considering attending Western. Today, Ms. Harris organizes graduating class events and fundraisers to support scholarships, which help maintain a sense of community among her classmates. Her bequest is a natural and practical extension of her passionate commitment to Western. “For me, it’s about recognizing the fact that for an organization to continue to grow and develop, you need to support it in any way you can. Giving back, in all forms, was not a hard decision to make.”


This article appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of Impact Western
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