‘It’s part of my nature to give’
When Richard Stilwell, BA 68, set up the Richard T. Stilwell Sr. Memorial Entrance Bursary some two decades ago in his father’s name, his aim was to help first-year undergraduates having difficulties paying for their textbooks and tuition. “My father was very interested in education,” Stilwell recalls. “Not having very much himself, he valued education — specifically higher education.”
An alumnus of Loyola College, one of Concordia’s founding institutions, Stilwell grew up in Montreal’s Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, where he started contributing to his community at a very young age. He remembers assisting with the milk and breakfast programs at his elementary school, as well as running errands for elderly ladies living in the neighbourhood when he was around 11 years old.
“For three years, I took care of all of their needs in terms of shopping, getting their dry cleaning done and paying their bills,” Stilwell says. “It’s part of my nature to give.”
After completing his degree in the late 1960s, Stilwell moved to Ontario, but returned to Montreal in 2014 to fulfill one of his retirement goals — to work in social services. He has since joined the administration at St. Columba House on a voluntary basis. The organization empowers Pointe-Saint-Charles residents in the development of their neighbourhood and within the wider community.
Recently, Stilwell extended his support to Concordia’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, a database that archives digital video and audio materials in such a way that researchers can annotate, analyze and evaluate materials.
His interest in the program began when he learned about a project to develop an oral history book and audio tapes focussing on the Lachine Canal. This led Stilwell to contact Steven High, a professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Science, and founding member of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling.
“High indicated to me that he was also going to do an audiotape and booklet on Pointe-Saint-Charles,” Stilwell says. “I said I would show him around the neighbourhood and point out various institutions and what they were like in the ’50s and ’60s.”
The collaboration would lead to La Pointe: On the Other Side of the Tracks, a historical booklet designed for use with an audio tour of Pointe-Saint-Charles. Stilwell remains active in the centre through conversations with students about the neighbourhood and the Lachine Canal.
He notes the program is just one of many ways Concordia continues to make an impact in the world. “I’ve always said that whatever I give, I get back a hundredfold,” Stilwell says. “It’s been the way I’ve lived my life and I don’t know any different.”