How one couple’s passion will be their legacy

08 June 2021

“You have to stand up in a small way for what you believe in and do what’s right,” says Robert Merrett, retired University of Alberta professor.

For Robert and Kathryn Merrett, “doing what’s right” means supporting the future of the Bruce Peel Special Collections at the University of Alberta’s Library with a gift through their Will.

“We are passionate about the collection and keeping the collection strong. For students and to attract visiting scholars.” 

The library played a critical role during their time at the university and in Edmonton. 

Kathryn came to the U of A in 1967 to teach in the English department, and start a Ph.D. in literature, later returning for a Master’s in History. She recalls the countless hours she spent at the library over the years. As a student, and throughout her career working for Canadian Encyclopedia and as a historical writer. 

She met Robert in 1969. He had just arrived from England to teach at the U of A’s English department. “I had four job offers but chose the University of Alberta because no one in my history had gone there and because of their Library, known as the second-best in Canada.” 

Robert chaired the Libraries committee. In his third and fourth year, he applied for a Canada Council Grant to boost the 18th-century collection in the Library. “We compiled a list of 18th century minor poets. And we purchased mounds of rare books. That was my beginning.” 

Thanks to visionary collectors and generous donors like the Merretts, the Bruce Peel Special Collections houses a world-class collection of more than 100,000 rare books. It is a significant global collection of archival materials that explore a range of local and international subjects and it’s won a lot of respect from faculty and the public.

“It’s filled with many unique collections, treasures and artifacts. Donations have made this possible.” 

Having lived in Edmonton for over 50 years, the Merretts feel it is important to give back to the U of A and the Edmonton community. They felt the best way was by leaving a gift in their Wills. 

“We wanted to distribute what wealth we have to our community, as well as to our nieces and nephews. We have had so many connections to U of A, so we’ve left a gift to them after taking care of our family. We know our legacy gift to the U of A will give back to the community.”

Through their gift to U of A in support of the Bruce Peel Special Collections, Robert and Kathryn have done something significant -- for U of A students, staff and the entire Edmonton community. 

They have recognized “the hard work of librarians, donors, and people who want to make sources and culture available to everyone. It’s building on this tradition and carrying it forward.”

Like the Merretts, you probably have a special U of A area that is meaningful to you. If so, you can get more information by clicking here

And you are welcome to contact one of the University of Alberta’s planned giving experts, Kathy Fitzgerald at 780-492-2616 or, Julian Solberg at 780-492-4811 or or Hilary Fabrizio at 780-996-7808 or They are available to help and answer any questions you have about supporting the U of A through a gift in your Will.