Braden O'Donnell

Braden O'Donnell

UVic ignites transformation 

Access to the Internet and exposure to the world was limited when I attended high school. We didn’t question everything or think much ‘outside of the box’. In some ways, this was comforting – the world seemed slower and finite with a lack of overwhelming possibility – but in other ways, it left me wondering if I was missing something important.   

In the spring of 2000, I was accepted at UVic. I had never been away from home and hadn’t ventured much outside the protective bubble of my Kelowna community. Although I had never seen UVic before setting foot on campus two days before classes started, I immediately felt at home. The emphasis on smaller class sizes, actual teaching, and the importance of the individual allowed me to find my voice, question the world around me and engage in a discourse on humanity. 

During my four years at UVic, I discovered what I loved, studied things I had never considered before, learned new ways of thinking, and challenged many of my preconceptions. I suffered the worst grade of my life on an assignment and learned to come back stronger. I discovered the importance of inquiry, learned to read, write, and speak in multiple languages, and discovered the distinct interconnectedness of academic disciplines. Outside of the classroom, I experienced my first love and suffered my first heartache. I cooked, cleaned and did laundry. I learned to keep and make appointments, manage my time, maintain life-long friendships, and stay true to my word.

That said, however, perhaps the greatest gift from UVic came in the spring of 2003. While attempting to fulfill the requirements of my major, I took a class on Dante’s Divine Comedy. I had no connection to Dante and had only taken the course because it fit nicely into my schedule and the professor seemed engaging.

A few weeks into class, I found myself gazing up and counting the seemingly-random perforations in each ceiling tile. Eventually, a pattern emerged and I noticed a similar numerical pattern in the text we were studying. I approached the professor, Dr. Lloyd Howard, with my discovery. He encouraged me to pursue my idea further and helped me turn it into a term paper. Then he arranged an independent research class for me and, as part of a committee, awarded me a scholarship to fund the extra associated costs. What Dr. Howard never knew was that the research class was a spark that turned into a fire that led me to graduate work in the same area and, ultimately, to teaching where I hope to inspire others as he did me.

I am sure if I praised Dr. Howard for igniting that spark and helping me find my true passion, he would tell me he would do the same for anyone and, therein, lies the spirit of what UVic is – a place that provides opportunity and challenges students to find and live their passions freely with encouragement instead of persecution.

When I consider what my life has become as a result of my time at UVic, it occurs to me how important it is that others have a chance to find what I did. In my own humble way, I want to give back to a school that has given me everything.

Through a gift in his Will, Braden has established a scholarship for Humanities students in the Department of Medieval Studies.  

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