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Isabel G. Auld
Isabel G. Auld

Lives Lived: Isabel G. Auld, 98 Add to ...

Diarist, chancellor, advocate, matriarch. Born on Sept. 21, 1917, in Winnipeg; died on March 27, 2016, in Winnipeg, of natural causes, aged 98.

Isabel had an impeccable way of placing her best mind forward. Only child of Scottish immigrants Charles and Maggie Hutcheson, her curiosity and keen intellect were evident from her early years. As a teenager, she won a world grain-judging competition in Regina, an award that made everything else possible.

The monetary award covered her tuition at the University of Saskatchewan, a boon in the lean Depression years. During her studies, her skills in grading and identifying plants and seeds led to part-time work in the school’s research labs, helping to develop rust-resistant wheat. After graduating with a BA and MA in genetics in 1940, she embarked on postgraduate studies in cytological research at McGill University on a National Research Council scholarship.

In 1942, she married W. Murray Auld, an engineer who later became head of Bristol Aerospace. Theirs was a true partnership, filled with shared respect and interests, enduring 72 years, until Murray’s passing in 2015. Together they created a loving home in Winnipeg for their son Hedley and daughters Nancy and Cathy. Isabel considered herself fortunate to enjoy memorable summers at the family’s Victoria Beach cottage with her eight grandchildren. She was known for her oatmeal porridge and tea biscuits, prepared on the wood-burning cook stove.

Characteristic of women of her generation, Isabel found fulfilment in community volunteer work. She was a tireless advocate for individuals, particularly in the medical field. She had an uncanny ability to express her views in ways that compelled others to question theirs. Most active in the Winnipeg community, Isabel also served on national boards, including the Consumers’ Association of Canada and Canada World Youth, where she had an opportunity to witness community projects in Senegal.

She was also a long-serving member of the University of Manitoba’s board of governors, and in 1977 was chosen as the school’s first female chancellor, a position she held until 1986. Her natural warmth and energetic drive equipped her well to build bridges between the school’s faculty and students and with the broader community. Beyond the ceremonial role of conferring degrees at convocations, where she shook hands with more than 32,000 graduates, she thrived in her many committee responsibilities and brought an increased visibility and accessibility to the office.

In 1989, she was humbled to be appointed as a member of the Order of Canada.

Isabel’s scientific mind as a researcher is evident in her detailed diary records chronicling events, including household records, family and travel. Some records are now housed in the University of Manitoba’s archives. Others proved useful for recent books focusing on the history of Victoria Beach and of the University of Saskatchewan. Armed with her Mac computer, requested as a 60th wedding anniversary gift, Isabel was a one-woman media monitoring service; she culled the Web for items of special interest to friends and family and dispatched them by e-mail, often before breakfast.

Friends describe Isabel as a voice of wisdom, grace and influence. She used her gifts well all her life. She had much more living in mind as she approached the centenary of her birth. As a mentor, cherished friend and enthusiastic supporter, she is greatly missed.

Cathy Auld is Isabel’s daughter.

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