Linda MacDonald is the inaugural recipient of the St. F.X. Alumni Association’s Xaverian Spirit Award.
The retired St. F.X. Students’ Union employee was honoured earlier this month during the traditional Welcome Home Dinner at Homecoming 2019.
“It is great honour,” she said.
In an interview that took place nine years to the day after her retirement, MacDonald noted she was supposed to receive the award in 2018.
“I had to fly to B.C. so I wouldn’t be able to attend, so I suggested they should honour someone else, but they wanted me to be the first one, so that was special,” she added.
As for the genesis of the fledgling honour, St. F.X. Alumni Association past president Glenn Horne explained the group had several awards “that celebrate deserving alumni, but no opportunity to celebrate those people who may not be alumni, but make St. F.X. what it is and a student’s time at St. F.X. so meaningful.”
“Every alumnus has a story about someone who made a lasting impact on their life; custodians, administrators, servers, coaches, professors and so forth; sometimes, in small ways, often they don’t even know the affect they’ve had [on students],” he said in an email.
Horne added the alumni association created the award “to celebrate the people who work directly with students, breathe life into the Xaverian spirit through their actions and leave a lasting mark on students.”
“They guide students toward earning the privilege of wearing an X-Ring, even if they don’t have one, and for their guidance, support and influence they should be celebrated,” he said.
Coincidentally, MacDonald’s favourite of many memorable times shared with students was during the annual X-Ring day on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier (Dec. 3).
“It is such a wonderful day,” she said, noting its establishment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and its subsequent growth as a celebration.
MacDonald described the mood of the day as one of “pure joy.”
“Everyone is so, so happy,” she said.
In the citation read during the award presentation, MacDonald was called the “face” of the students’ union during her more than 36 years with the organization.
“She has been a mentor, a friend, and the deliverer of accountability to generations of St. F.X. Student Union leaders,” it read.
“She gave gentle, and sometimes not so subtle, reminders (when needed) about the responsibility of student leadership, while still being immersed in the St. F.X. spirit.”
MacDonald praised not only the student leaders, but also everyone who worked in the SUB and Bloomfield Centre over her tenure.
“It was a great team,” she said.
Reflecting on the time – each May – when a new student executive would take over, MacDonald described her excitement with meeting them.
“They were great – bringing in their energy and ideas,” she noted.
MacDonald not only offered a listening ear, advice and guidance, but also nourishment to the newcomers, including – as the citation noted – a famous homemade spaghetti supper and, sometimes, even a lobster or two.
Student union leaders who worked with her provided “noting but glowing praise” for MacDonald.
“She was a rock, a steady presence, the reminder of things done and dreams that could be accomplished, the keeper of our history, the perspective when times were tough, and the supporter who would always be game for us trying something new – and getting into a little trouble along the way,” the citation read.
MacDonald agreed she takes great pride in the accomplishments of the student union leaders she worked with – not only at and for St. F.X., but also in their broader communities and around the world.
“They have accomplished a lot and continue to be leaders,” she said.
MacDonald noted some of them currently hold positions with the St. F.X. board of governors.
“I am very fortunate to have time with them,” she said.