It's never too late to follow your passion

Sarah Pratt - 08 November 2017

Hugh and Norma Clendenning

Hugh and Norma Clendenning had careers in banking when Hugh decided to go to university as a mature student. It's something he had always wanted to do, and he couldn't ignore the call any longer.

He originally wanted to go to law school but, over time, that desire faded while his involvement in his church became an increasingly important part of his life. He decided to pursue an arts degree, and then went on to attend seminary school to become a pastor.

Fifteen years after Hugh graduated, Norma earned an arts degree and is now an actress. She was born with a love of performing, she says.

"Drama felt natural to me," she says with a graceful wave of her hand. "When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an opera singer. I would listen to opera on the radio and sing along."

University gave Hugh and Norma a chance to change the course of their lives, and they feel thankful for the opportunity. One of the ways they decided to give back to the U of A is through a bequest to the Faculty of Arts. Their undesignated gift will help students seeking a broad education and allow leadership to respond to the faculty's most pressing needs.

"The post-secondary environment is constantly evolving," says Dean of Arts Lesley Cormack. "Undesignated gifts to the faculty provide the flexibility to respond to emerging priorities and support future generations of students."

'We really wanted to do this. It's our way of paying back for what we got out of our university years.'

- Hugh Clendenning

"We really wanted to do this," says Hugh. "It's our way of paying back for what we got out of our university years."

"It's just something you do," adds Norma.

Both had positive experiences on campus and enjoy sharing their fond memories. Norma recalls her professors encouraging her from the time she was a freshman, just a little unsure of her journey.

"My professors would go 100 miles for a student to succeed," says Norma. "They challenged me and I needed it."

As she relaxed as a student, Norma recalls, she started to enjoy her classes more. She learned to let others help her, while at the same time sharing her real-world, big-picture thinking. As a mature student, Norma says she brought something special to the classroom: a wisdom based on years of experience.

Hugh and Norma agree that an arts education taught them a lot about a wide range of subjects - business, political science, philosophy, communications, public speaking and more - all of which have helped shape their lives and careers.

Their advice for current and future students?

"Find out what you want and who you are, and work hard and stick with it," says Hugh.

As he and Norma learned, it's never too late to pursue a dream.