Lakehead University Alumni Magazine

Profile: Meet Joy Harvie Maclaren

Joy Harvie Maclaren is a dedicated community leader whose generosity has contributed to the development of Lakehead’s Orillia campus

Kathy Hunt
Published October 24, 2011
Joy Harvie Maclaren
Joy Harvie Maclaren

Joy Harvie Maclaren's family has a strong tradition of championing the Canadian values of education, equality, and social justice and it's a tradition that Joy has spent her life advancing. So when she learned that Lakehead was opening a new campus in Orillia that was partially situated on her family's former homestead, she was immediately intrigued. "I went to Orillia to meet with Kim Fedderson, Orillia campus dean, to hear about the University's plans," says Joy.

"Kim showed me the new campus site, then just a stake in the ground." Joy was impressed with the idea of a university being established where the Harvie family had lived and worked. Her great-great-grandfather, Scottish pioneer John Harvie, had immigrated to the Orillia area in 1832 and purchased a plot of land that became known as the Harvie Settlement.

The Harvie's history of promoting education began in 1860 with the establishment of the Harvie Settlement schoolhouse, a small log structure that served local schoolchildren. "The Harvies understood the value of education, no matter what family sacrifices were entailed," explains Joy. "Education has been a family tradition ever since."

The Story Behind the "Century Plant"

A Christmas cactus plant that had been in the Harvie family for more than a century is back home in Orillia, where it lived since the 1870s. It had been passed down through the generations and is now being lovingly cared for by a faculty member at Lakehead's Orillia campus. In 2010, the year of the opening of the new Orillia campus, Patricia Harvie presented the plant to Orillia Campus Dean Kim Fedderson. She felt it was appropriate that the plant be returned to Orillia, complete with watering can, care instructions, and an explanatory plaque. Alice den Otter, professor of interdisciplinary studies, happened to notice the plant in the dean's office and admired it. The plant is now thriving in den Otter's bright corner office. "It's a remarkable plant," she says, "and I am honoured to have the responsibility for its care."

Alice den Otter watering the Century plant
Professor Alice den Otter

Joy's father, Eric Harvie, who was born in Orillia, became an ardent proponent of Canadian history, arts, and education, with a particular interest in Aboriginal culture. He established himself as a successful lawyer and business person after moving west to Calgary, and became known as the "man who gave it all back." His contributions included supporting the City of Orillia, where a section of the Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital is named the "Harvie Wing." He is also a member of the City of Orillia Hall of Fame.

Born in 1922 and raised in Calgary, Joy, a fifth generation Harvie, has followed in her father's footsteps as an outspoken advocate not only of higher education, but also of minority rights and the goals of Aboriginal people across the country. Given her background, it is not surprising that Joy took on the project of nurturing the growth of the Orillia campus with enthusiasm and unswerving focus. "This is important for the area," she says. "It serves a great need, as it is the only university campus in the region."

Once Joy had a sense of the requirements of the new campus, she set out, along with her cousin Patricia Harvie, to gather family support. "Here was an opportunity for the extended Harvie family to honour its heritage and to continue the Harvie legacy of promoting education," observed Joy. The cousins were successful in raising $100,000 to support a library to help Lakehead students fulfill their educational aspirations.

As two of Lakehead University Orillia's earliest patrons, Joy and Patricia were thrilled to be invited to the grand opening ceremonies at the new campus in September 2010. This fall, their hard work will be recognized with a special dedication and naming ceremony of the Harvie Legacy Library in the new Academic Building.

Lakehead is privileged to count Joy as one of its most important benefactors. She has enriched Canada's educational and cultural landscape by creating scholarships, a research chair, and the New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts. In 1995, Joy was given the honorary title of "New Sun" by the Mohawk, Ojibway, and Blackfoot in recognition of her work for First Nations communities across Canada. Joy has also helped a wide range of organizations become successful, including Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Hospice at May Court in Ottawa, and the community foundations of both Ottawa and Calgary.

At Carleton University's 2011 spring convocation ceremonies, Joy was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree in recognition of her outstanding contributions to Carleton University and her advancement of Aboriginal and Inuit culture and education. Joy also holds an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, McGill University, received for promoting postsecondary education for Canadian Aboriginal students, as well as for being a "quiet activist."

Her remarkable accomplishments were recently celebrated with her appointment to the Order of Canada. In May 2011, Joy accepted this prestigious award, which recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to community, and service to the nation. "Joy is a vibrant and remarkable woman," says Kim Fedderson, "and we are honoured to now have her family's exceptional history live on within our new campus."

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