William and Doreen Kerby Scholarship in Medieval British Literature

This scholarship is being established by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton in honour of her parents, William and Doreen Kerby.

I have founded this scholarship in the names of both my parents for a number of reasons. My father, William Aaron Kerby, represented the first generation in his family to attain a university degree. His first love was Engineering Physics, which he won a scholarship to study at the then newly minted branch of University of Saskatchewan in Regina. But it was the end of the Second World War, and most men in that field were unemployed, so his parents convinced him to give up his dream and go to University of Toronto to study dentistry because it was “practical.” My father was a very good dentist, but all his life he felt the loss of the career of his heart and a chance to use his best gifts. He had to make do with taking his children to see bridges, dams and skyscrapers, and marveling at their design – and helping us with Physics problems, which he did in his head at the speed of light. Although my own choice of field, Medieval British Literature, was a long way from Engineering Physics, he helped me understand the importance of following one’s intellectual aptitudes and dreams, even when it seems impractical to the rest of the world.

My father also loved Victoria, and almost from the moment I began teaching at University of Victoria, made plans to retire there. But in 1990 his life was cut short by cancer, even before his retirement, and he never lived to see that dream either.

My mother, Doreen Margaret Kerby (née Ogilvie), graduated from University of Toronto in Home Economics and from Ontario College of Education, opening the way for her first career as a wonderful secondary school teacher, and a second career, after retirement, as a travel writer and public speaker. My own career as a university teacher would have been unthinkable without the marvelous role model of my mother’s dedication to her students and their learning; my research years in Britain unthinkable without her adventurous spirit, and belief that travel broadens our minds and our empathies. Her father, James Murray Ogilvie, was a beloved country doctor in rural Saskatchewan, and a strong advocate for the education of women. He always insisted that if he could only afford to educate one of children, it would be his daughter, since a university degree was the only way of ensuring a woman’s security and independence.

I have been particularly blessed then to come from a family that valued university education and the intellectual life, even though I was the first in my family to have the privilege of a career as a professor. I have also been blessed in the privilege of my twenty year tenure in the English Department at University of Victoria. I have spent time at enough universities in Canada, England and the U.S. to know that UVic especially excels its sister institutions in commitment to democratic process, imaginative problem-solving, and engagement with serious intellectual traditions. I am honoured to have been a member of its faculty, and it is my hope that the scholarship will help further the dreams of a young doctoral student in Medieval British Literature, the field that gave all literature in English its start, and the period that invented the university itself.

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