William Petrie Graduate Student Library Scholarship

Black-and-white portrait of William Petrie dressed formally
William Petrie

This $1000 scholarship was established in 2014 and named for bequest donor William Petrie. It is awarded to an academically outstanding graduate student in any discipline.

Winning students submit an essay demonstrating how they have used library resources—print, archival, music, multimedia, or digital—for a class project, assignment, or research paper.


Award details

  • Eligible students must complete a 500-word essay explaining their use of library resources in an application
  • The University Librarian's Office will nominate the recipient
  • Annual deadline is May 31

Donor biography

William Petrie

When Bill Petrie wasn't studying the aurora borealis, he was writing books on orchids. When he wasn't contributing his talents to the Defence Research Board of Canada, he was investigating global warming and alternative energy. A 20th century Renaissance man!

Bill was born in 1912 Victoria and his first great love was music. His father was an accomplished bass vocalist and his high school principal, Ira Dilworth, a concert pianist, further cultivated Bill’s deep appreciation for the classics; a joy that stayed with him for the rest of his life.

At Victoria College Bill was President of the Student's Council. He left Victoria to attend the University of British Columbia for his BA in math and physics. Then he moved his genius on to Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he completed his PhD.

Bill swapped coasts again to begin his climb up the ladder of a teaching career; starting at UBC, then after WWII, moving on to the University of Manitoba and the University of Saskatchewan. His teaching success was matched by a research career with the Defence Research Board where he moved through several senior positions before occupying the roles of Deputy Chairman and Chief of the Canadian Defence Research Staff in London, England. In the 1950s, he served as Canadian Chairman of the Canada-US Scientific Advisory Team on air defence.

In 1971 Bill retired, but that doesn’t mean he slowed down. He brought his wife of then-nearly thirty years back to Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula where they worked together on the mysteries of the aurora borealis: he using his expertise in spectroscopy, she illustrating his publications. He explored alternative energy sources, military technology, constitutional and environmental issues and combined his love of photography with orchids to produce the Guide to Orchids of North America. He was also active on many boards and committees including with the NATO laboratory in La Spetzia, Italy.

Many honours were bestowed on Bill for his work, including election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Centennial Medal. But his long life of 100 years wasn't fuelled by accolades; it was fuelled by a deep curiosity for the spectacular world around him and the joy it gave him. He took pleasure in both his internationally influential work and in simple hobbies such as gardening.

It was with this appreciation that he left a bequest gift to the University of Victoria's Libraries. “UVic Libraries would not be the vibrant heart of the campus without the vision and support of individuals like Dr. Petrie,” Jonathan Bengtson, University Librarian, says gratefully, “His gift will provide a legacy that successive generations of students at UVic will benefit from.”

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Read the winning essays in the UVicSpace collection for this award

2023: Allison Balabuch

2022: Chris Aino Pihlak

2021: Lynn (Yu Ling) Ng

2020: Katrina Good; Janice Niemann

2019: Parisa Sabokrooh; Genevieve von Petzinger

2018: Kailey Fukushima; Jodi Litvin

2017: Rachel Lallouz

2016: Colton Vogelaar

2015: Jonathan Minnes