Winter 2016

Up Front

I believe “community” is forged and sustained by the connections we have with each other, and our willingness to get involved and help when help is needed.

I know first-hand what it means to depend on community. Several years ago, I was out of town on a business trip when I received an alarming call. My daughter, Caitlyne, had been in an accident. She was crossing the street at a crosswalk on her way to the U of A when a driver sped past the other stopped cars, hit Caity and drove off.

My heart stopped when I got that phone call. Something had happened to my child and I wasn’t there to care for her.

But during Caity’s terrible moment, an amazing thing occurred: strangers leaped into action. Two parked their cars and rushed to her aid (she was shaken and bruised but thankfully OK). Others called the police and ambulance. Still others followed the hit-and-run driver and shared the licence plate and description of the car. People saw an opportunity to give and didn’t hesitate.

As children, we believe our families will always be there to look out for us; as parents, we know that isn’t always the case. Sometimes we can’t help the ones we love. Sometimes the care comes from strangers, members of our community, who take action in a time of need.

I wish I had been there to care for my daughter as she sat in shock on the cold pavement that autumn afternoon, but I take comfort in knowing she was not alone. The community stepped in. One stranger did what I could not: she took off her coat, wrapped it around Caity, hugged her and told her everything would be all right.

We are privileged to be part of a tremendous alumni community stretching across the globe. We are privileged to be part of the University of Alberta, an outward-facing institution that acts for the public good. If you wonder where you fit, I encourage you to find out what moves you to action, and get involved. (“Where do you fit in?” on page 24 is a great starting point.) Find the courage to connect and to give — even small gestures can have meaningful and significant effects.

While I never met the person who consoled my daughter or the others who helped after her accident, I remain eternally grateful to them all. They define what “community” means to me. Though we are strangers, we are connected and guided by similar principles and values: a willingness to help in times of need, a willingness to do good for our neighbours and a willingness to give. What strength there is in community!

Mary Pat Barry

Mary Pat Barry, ’04 MA,

President, Alumni Association