Nora Lugrin Shaw and Wendell Burrill Shaw Memorial Scholarship

Nora Lugrin Shaw (c.1896 - 1962)
Wendell Burrill Shaw (1886 - 1976)

Nora and Wendell Shaw shared a deep love for Canada, and for the system which allowed them the individual freedoms they desired. When Nora passed away in 1962, and Wendell decided to set up a scholarship at the University of Victoria, he expressed these patriotic feelings by making the subject of the scholarship the Magna Carta, which Wendell considered to be the basis of the democratic system.

Born in New Brunswick, Nora and Wendell both came to Victoria before the First World War, Nora as a child in 1900 and Wendell in 1910. Wendell had been a teacher in New Brunswick and Alberta, but went into the real estate business upon arriving in Victoria. His career was interrupted by the outbreak of war – he commanded the first contingent to leave Victoria as part of the 5th regiment, which went overseas in August, 1914. He served with distinction in Europe, and retired with the rank of Major in 1919. Upon returning to Victoria, he once again took up the real estate business. Nora wrote radio scripts during this period, including a popular serial called "Marston of the Mounties."

Wendell's chronic asthma forced the couple to move to California shortly after the war. But their hearts stayed in Victoria. As Wendell said, "We both enjoyed the happiest years of our lives there." When Nora passed away in the early '60s, fond memories of Victoria prompted Wendell to set up a scholarship here.

In much of his correspondence with Robert Wallace, the vice-principal of Victoria College, Wendell described why he felt it was important for the Magna Carta to be studied, and why he felt the scholarship should go to a student who wrote the best essay on the famous bill:

"The date Magna Carta was signed -- June 15, 1215 -- is a date to remember by the American and British peoples. Sir Winston Churchill, in his "History of the English-Speaking Peoples" refers to the Magna Carta as ' . . . the most famous milestone of our rights and freedom....' In 1957, the American Bar Association made a gift of the Runnymede Memorial to the Magna Carta Trust of England; the Memorial was dedicated at Runnymede,England, where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215.

"Magna Carta Day (June 15) should be officially recognized in the United States, Canada, and other English-speaking countries. We should constantly be reminded that the constitutional liberties we enjoy are the fruits of a long and bitter struggle extending back over 750 years. Our forefathers paid a great price for our liberties."

Major Shaw felt that the establishment of an award for an essay on the Magna Carta would be a first step towards setting up June 15 as Magna Carta Day in Canada. He spent the almost 25 years of his retirement researching the background of our legal and political systems and continually made his case to politicians and school boards. He moved back to Victoria in the '70s, and his room was full of rare books and pamphlets dealing with the Magna Carta, as well as a collection of published articles he had written on the subject.

When he died in October, 1976, he left a small legacy fund to the University of Victoria, which was built up by friends and relatives. His name was added to the scholarship, which has continued to provide money to students studying, as he phrased it, "the birthright of all English-speaking peoples and many others."

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