A veteran of his field
Russell Peden was born in 1934 and grew up in Port Arthur, Ont., where he worked in a pulp and paper mill as a high-school student. Following his studies, Peden enrolled in chemical engineering at the University of Manitoba but was unable to complete his undergraduate degree. He worked in western Canada for a wire and cable company and as an assistant mechanic for the Canadian National Railway before getting a job as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse on the north shore of Lake Superior.
Between his time living in a boxcar and becoming a teacher, Peden lived with a couple of men who worked at a newspaper in Edmonton, which eventually inspired him to try journalism.
He then moved to Montreal in the early 1960s, drawn by the city and the social and political transformations of the early days of the Quiet Revolution, and got a job with the Canadian Press. It was where he and Black first met.
“He was very calm and unflappable,” says Shelagh. “His easy-going temperament and sense of fairness had a calming effect in the newsroom.”
Peden was sent to Quebec City as a bureau correspondent to cover the National Assembly, even though he spoke only high-school level French.
“I’ll never understand how he did it, but he was smart,” Black remembers fondly.
After his time at the Canadian Press, Peden returned to Montreal to work at the Montreal Star followed by the Montreal Gazette, where he spent the remainder of his career. He served as a respected editor on the city desk and was indispensable to the paper’s coverage of the country’s most tumultuous era, from the October Crisis through both Quebec independence referendums and a series of crucial federal and provincial elections.
Paying it forward
In addition to helping students who require financial aid, Black also hopes that the Russell Peden Memorial Bursary will give her the opportunity to meet with and learn about the scholarship’s recipients.
“I liked the idea of giving someone who might not otherwise have the opportunity a crack at the university experience, because it’s so valuable for a lot of young people,” she says.
“I would love to have a bit of contact with recipients; to know who they are and what they do. I like hearing from young people.”