Learning to change the world

"Education is the process of acquiring the necessities of life: knowledge, values and beliefs."

Sarah Pratt - 19 December 2018

Roma Newcombe (left) still keeps in touch with her former students.

Roma Newcombe, '69 BEd, '78 BA, believes education can heal the world's problems. During her 23-year career teaching high school, she saw first-hand the difference education can make.

"Education is the process of acquiring the necessities of life: knowledge, values and beliefs," she says.

Her passion for teaching began as a child, playing teacher to her younger siblings and cousins. She knew even then that she wanted to be a teacher.

"It's a rewarding profession because it allows the teacher to make a difference in the lives of his or her students," she says. "I loved it, and I still keep in touch with some of my former students." (One former student calls her Auntie Roma.)

Newcombe values the connections she made with her students and the opportunity, through teaching, to help them succeed. Beyond the classroom, her commitment to education and young people motivated her to join a group that helps build schools in Kenya and to volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Society providing emergency help to those in need. She also volunteered at a Haitian orphanage after the 2010 earthquake.

Closer to home, Newcombe has made charitable bequests to the Faculty of Education and Campus Saint-Jean to create scholarships that give the gift of post-secondary education to students who might not otherwise have the means to pursue a degree. The Faculty of Education, consistently ranked among the top four in Canada, is home to award-winning teachers, internationally recognized researchers, educational innovators and community leaders. Campus Saint-Jean is the university's francophone faculty and home to 40 researchers and 14 areas of expertise.

Newcombe, whose love of the language comes from her parents, taught French for most of her career.

In retirement, Newcombe's love of learning hasn't abated. She is always looking for new experiences. Her travels have taken her to 104 countries, and her adventures include dogsledding in northern Canada, skydiving, viewing polar and grizzly bears, and climbing Mount Sinai at the age of 70. When she's not having adventures around the world, she feeds her artistic spirit by painting, gardening and making preserves.

Through it all, she often stops to reflect on her university experience.

"I want to support teachers and the U of A because I really benefited from my university education," she says. "Through the university and the [Faculty of Education], one acquires the necessary skills to prepare future generations."