|The Ban Righ Centre||
A Door to Continuing Education For Women
The origins of the Ban Righ Foundation is a story its admirers love to tell. Contemporary Board of Trustee minutes give the bare bones; a Masters thesis by Marion Campbell rounds out the story and it's a good one. There are the monies saved by successive women's residence boards and fought for by the far-sighted women we now call the Founders; administrators of the day, with designs on the savings, either outwitted or persuaded, Senate debates - flurry and fury - over whether such a foundation for continuing education should be set up for women only. In the end, the determined women secured the money and set to work to create the Ban Righ Foundation.
The Founders worked from a blueprint that is as valid today as it was then: to be resolutely in the here and now, and think ahead.
These visionary of a practical persuasion were firm about everything, even location: they held out for a house, not the series of offices they were offered. What they had in mind was not domestic so much as utilitarian. They knew that a community forms more quickly, and possibly indelibly, when it has a roof over its head, walls and a kitchen. This has been the case since kitchen fires and tents.
Like the University, the Ban Righ Centre might be described as a place of encounters. The principal encounter is, of course, with learning. This encounter will be brief but lasting, when considered in the context of a lifetime.
Here's how it works at the Ban Righ Centre. A person dropping in - say it's you - doesn't know what to expect, which is apt because it could go any one of thirty ways. You are greeted and get the house tour. Or, you are greeted and asked to join the conversation, perhaps the tumultuous argument, underway. Shortly someone will inquire about you - in an open-ended way so as not to put you on the spot - enough to let you indicate whether you are there for a break or in need of information, or of the myriad reasons a person might have.
The encounter begins. Where it leads is anybody's guess. Possibly to assistance with the vast array of University services: where to go for what. Or, maybe you team up with another student to get through Statistics, and forge a friendship. Could be that the encounter becomes extended, that you take root for a year, two. What you seek in the way of peace and quiet, upstairs on a couch in the late afternoon, is a much-needed encounter with solitude, and the Ban Righ Centre is the only place in your complicated life where this is possible.
The encounters, if you think about it, range in tone and substance. People have declared that the Ban Righ Centre has saved their lives, Literally. For others, links established pulled them outward; or, friends acquired enabled the individual to push through defenses and fears, to launch herself: an awakening. Each encounter is always intensely personal.
Encounters with awkwardness, with aggravation, with civility, with wonder. Opportunity to comprehend the astonishment of an idea, the intricate workings of the mind. A chance to acquire the sturdy glory of a friend.
However much theories of education wax and wane, the brilliance of such encounters with learning will continue to illuminate. Perhaps when the next anniversary gets celebrated, these last few years will look like a time in which the Ban Righ Foundation encountered change and change was accommodated, a time when origins counted.
- Joanne Page (1999)
Masters Thesis About Founding - Marion Campbell
Campbell, Marion Ellen (1995). Separation or integration: A case study. The Ban Righ Board of Queen's University. M.A. dissertation, Queen's University at