Skip to main content

‘People need clean, fresh water’: Renewed support from Marilyn Simpson helps protect Quebec lakes

Alumna’s gift advances water quality research at Concordia’s Institute for Water, Energy and Sustainable Systems
March 17, 2022
By Damon van der Linde, BA 08

Marilyn Simpson


Marilyn Simpson, BA 84, has a holistic view of serving her community that encompasses public health, sustainable finance and environmental conservation.

Retired from a career as a community nurse and child protection advocate, her current mission is to protect the lakes and rivers of Quebec, which includes making a second gift of $30,000 to the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen Now.

“It has always been important for me to consider the outside world, whether it’s the local or global community,” Simpson says of her support of the Concordia Institute for Water, Energy and Sustainable Systems (CIWESS).

“I need to do what I call ‘housekeeping’ along the way by putting in time and energy to keep the world as good as it is and possibly, hopefully, even better.”

Local and global change

Following her studies at Concordia, Simpson shifted her career from a hospital setting to being a community nurse in Montreal.

“I couldn't help myself when so many needs in the community weren’t being met,” she says.

Simpson later worked in community health education in Markham, Ont., including in the prevention of child abuse, which led to her participation in United Nations summits. Through her research on community health programs, she says she witnessed both local and global change produced by education campaigns.

“Nationally, our education campaign stimulated the providing of resources for both the abused and the abuser when there was hardly anything in the community like this even being discussed. I think Canada was the first in the world to address the prevention of child abuse, so this program was quite cutting-edge.”

In 2013, Simpson’s belief in community education led her to launch a public speaker series with a gift to Concordia.

Her donation to the John Molson School of Business established the William W. Ashby Lecture Series on Value Investing. It is named in honour of her former husband William Ashby, BComm 64, BA 66, who as then-president of an investment management firm advocated for sustainable financial growth over short-term volatile investments.

“There's a link between financial capacity and health,” she says.

‘Ready to innovate’

More recently, Simpson became concerned about the quality of water in her lake community and felt a responsibility to take action.

“My mission has been to make people realize that just because it looks clear, doesn't make it healthy. We have to be sure the laws are followed that prohibit the disposal of invisible solids and liquids into our rivers and lakes, from industrial and mining waste to toxic soaps and cleaning agents in our households,” she says.

“In this way, we can better care for our swimming, fishing and drinking water which eventually flows downhill through the province, improving water quality everywhere.”

Simpson's concern inspired a new gift to Concordia in support of CIWESS, which trains students to be at the forefront of sustainable development practices.

“Concordia is very topical and ready to innovate,” she says. “You’re treated very well as a donor.”

Simpson’s gift assists in the analysis of water and sediment samples from various lakes including Lac Caron, Lac Johanne and Lac Barron in Quebec’s Laurentian region by supporting the salary of a research associate.

“The impact is that once the water and sediment quality are known, then potential management techniques such as on-site filtration can be developed to improve water quality,” says Catherine Mulligan, director of the CIWESS.

For Simpson, her latest gift to Concordia is meaningful because it not only benefits the lakes she is so passionate about protecting, but helps train researchers who can use this knowledge to address water quality issues both locally and in communities around the world.

“I think there is a holistic aspect to health, but first and foremost, people need clean, fresh water,” she says.


Join Marilyn Simpson’s support of the Concordia Institute for Water, Energy and Sustainable Systems by giving to the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen Now.

Back to top

© Concordia University