Forty years after receiving what would become an invaluable scholarship, Nancy Banks has reached out to say thank you, as well as pay it forward. Submitted/File photo

Law professor owes career to Legion scholarship

Forty years after receiving an invaluable scholarship, Nancy Banks has paid it forward

For Nancy Banks, every day is Remembrance Day.

It’s graduation day for the Fernie Secondary School class of 1978. Banks stood on the stage and received a scholarship that would end up propelling her towards success.

Forty years later, she wrote a letter addressed to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 36, thanking them for this gift which she still holds true to her heart.

“This scholarship was instrumental in providing the foundation for my higher education,” wrote Banks. “I wanted to let you know what I did with your investment in me.”

The scholarship was for $300, which amounted to 60 per cent of her first year university tuition fees.

“Every day is Remembrance Day for me,” wrote Banks. “I rarely miss an opportunity to tell people that I owe my education to veterans and am constantly grateful for the privilege to have received your support.”

Attached to the letter was a cheque amounting to what she was given in 1978, adjusted for inflation.

“Please accept this cheque with my heartfelt gratitude so others may benefit from this excellent program,” she said.

Banks’ father is a veteran of World War II, so the Legion holds a special place in her heart.

“The Legion’s got a special spot for me, I just really like the work that they do and I really appreciate veterans,” she said later over the phone.

“I’d been thinking about it for a while, and I just finally realized, oh my God, it’s been 40 years. You’ve better get on this!”

Banks is a success story; she is a prime example of someone who followed their passion. Originally from Fernie, Banks has worked as a law professor in Canada and the United Kingdom, and currently works in Ottawa as a legal analyst for the Library of Parliament.

After graduating high school, Banks obtained a Bachelor of Arts from Dalhousie University, as well as a Bachelor of Laws from the University of British Columbia. She then returned to UBC and received a Master of Laws, graduating first in her class, and was the Faculty of Law’s nominee for the Governor General’s Gold Medal, awarded by the Faculty of Graduate Studies to the student who has achieved most outstanding academic record as a Masters student. She then went on to teach in Canada, as well as the UK, which brought her to her current job in Ottawa.

As a law professor, Banks always loves it when former students reach out and give her updates on where they are and what they’re doing. This reminded her that she should take some time to thank the people who helped get her there.

Additionally, Banks says her parents were very strong believers in education, a message that clearly resonated with her.

“That scholarship from the Legion made a world of difference to me, and I wanted to pay that forward so that others might benefit from the same opportunity I was given,” she said.

According to Legion Branch 36 president Jeannie Watson, this is the first time in her 26 years with the Legion that a scholarship recipient has written back.

“I was very surprised when I opened the letter,” she said.

Watson was emotional as she read the letter to the rest of the Legion members during an executive meeting, Monday night.

All money donated back to the community in the form of scholarships and bursaries is funded through the Legion’s annual poppy fund campaign. Watson says the year the local Legion began awarding scholarships and bursaries is unknown, however, she figures since at least the 1970s. Today, scholarships are in the amount of $1000, and bursaries $1500.

“It seems like such a little amount when we’re handing it out … but you can do something with it, and she certainly did,” said Watson.

Banks has not been able to return to Fernie since her graduation in 1978. She was surprised to hear about how much the town had changed. When she was in high school, a seasons pass to the ski hill was $79. She has since made a bucket list and listed Fernie as a place she must revisit.

“I actually have not been back since,” she said. “But it’s on the list.”

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