Betty Embree Veinot isn’t afraid of a little hard work. She has three degrees and a diploma under her belt. Add a nursing career, four accomplished children, three published books, and a fiddle, and you’ve got an inspiring story of lifelong learning.
Turning 77 on Mother’s Day called for a celebration, but the main event was Tuesday’s Convocation where Betty graduated with an MA in history.
“I think that I’ve sort of ignored everybody for the last 18 months,” she laughs. “All that time I was thinking I must call people when I’m finished!”
A lifetime of learning
It’s hard to imagine Betty slowing down long enough to bask in her success. She started her relationship with Dalhousie as a young woman, graduating with a diploma in nursing in 1963. “I left Springhill at 18 to go in training at the Moncton Hospital. I would work as a special nurse on vacations. I guess I could have taken holidays, but I wanted to have the experience. I can’t just sit around and do nothing.” She worked as a public health nurse before deciding to stay home with her children.
While raising her three daughters and a son, Betty signed up for correspondence courses at Queens. She wrote her exams at Dal each spring, and after twelve years graduated with a BA in World Religions and Psychology in 1990.
Betty completed her second BA in 2007 in History, this time at Dal. As the author of three genealogy books, she wanted to enhance her understanding of Maritime history.
“I didn’t intend to take the masters,” she explains, “I’m just motivated... It’s just something I like to do.”
To trace the roots of her masters research, you have to go back to her degree in World Religions. “When I was studying with Dr. [Krista] Kesselring there was quite a bit of information about Quakers, especially during the English Civil War.” Betty researched Edward Burrough, a little-studied Quaker activist.
“My thesis was about his petitions to government to lessen the persecution of Quakers. He was writing to Oliver Cromwell and Charles II, advocating leniency because there were so many in prison. He wanted them to know that just because Quakers were different didn’t mean they should be mistreated.”
Betty can’t say enough about the support and encouragement she got from Dr. Kesselring, her supervisor.
“I just hung on to every word she said! She was not just a professor — she was a teacher. When she said that King Charles I had been beheaded, I was absolutely shocked! I was 76 years old and I didn’t know that piece of history.” Her philosophy that there is always something more to know, something new to learn, is the key to Betty’s success as a learner.
This enthusiasm was contagious in the classroom, although Betty was careful not to let her senior status get in the way of being a regular student. “I wanted to let the young people have their say in the class,” she says, “So I suppose I held back a little bit. The young people accepted me. I didn’t see myself as any different.”
What’s next for Betty Embree Veinot? She’ll keep playing violin with the Chebucto Symphony Orchestra, and her small fiddle group will play in nursing homes. She’ll bake bread and make pies. And she’ll be using her academic and research skills to edit and publish the 25 years of diaries her father kept as a Springhill coal miner.
“I just like to study.” Betty says with a smile. “You never know when you’ll get a Trivial Pursuit question.”
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