Claire Aitken

At the age of 28, most people haven’t even considered drafting a Will, let alone contemplated leaving a gift to charity in it. But, for Claire Aitken, her bequest ensures the legacies of her mother and grandmother will support and encourage female leaders of tomorrow.

Sandra Aitken © Kim Kalyn

“My mom always taught me that one of the most important things in life was Education, Education, Education. She was a fun-loving, life-long learner who instilled the values of hard work, compassion and perseverance in me. So it was only natural that when she passed away in August 2017, I would honour her legacy by ensuring those same values will continue in future generations.”

Claire’s mother, Sandra Ann Chisholm MacLean Aitken, was born in the small Scottish village of Dunoon, 50 km west of Glasgow. At an early age, she immigrated with her parents to Canada and grew up on Salt Spring Island. But as Claire notes, “Mom always had one foot back on the south shores of Argyll,” and the two would return “home” every summer to see family.

After completing high school, Sandra embarked on a successful 35-year career with the British Columbia provincial government. In her later years, working for the Environmental Appeal Board, she felt like she could make real change. “My mom had an incredible respect for the environment and its ability to facilitate personal reflection; it was this value that I wanted captured in her legacy.” Through the Sandra Ann Chisholm MacLean Aitken Graduate Award, Claire has ensured that Indigenous female graduate students are supported as they pursue a degree in environmental studies. It supports students like its inaugural recipient, Leigh Joseph (doctoral student), who is exploring the ways that traditional foods and medicines, along with culturally relevant interventions, may prevent and manage Type 2 diabetes, a particular concern for Canadian Indigenous communities.

When Claire talks about her mom and her grandmother, it is evident she has had powerful female role models in her life. She speaks with such passion, yet with a little Scottish wit, as she “blames” her grandma for her current degree of study at UVic. Claire is currently finishing her Bachelor of Arts with a double major in art history and visual studies (honours) and religious studies, both of which hearken back to when she was a teenager spending time with her grandmother.

Claire Aitken © Gregory Miller

Claire believes strongly that you are never too young (or too old) to make a difference in people’s lives. The little differences you make today are like ripples that can have a powerful effect on tomorrow.


For more information on leaving a gift in your Will to UVic, please contact Kristy Colpron  or 250-721-8967.