Diane and Ron Watson live a simple life but one filled with rich human connections.
"We are not materialistic," Diane says, "and we try to follow the Golden Rule by treating others the way we want to be treated." This remarkable Thunder Bay couple is easing the path of Lakehead students with the creation of three new bursaries and an athletic scholarship.
They have a long history of helping others. "My mother was blind and that led me to become the youngest member of the local association for the blind," explains Diane. "It's engrained in me to give back." Ron has carved out his own niche – he has been sharing his celebrated business and investing acumen with people from all walks of life for more than 20 years. Today, the Watsons' are dedicated volunteers and supporters of several community organizations.
Both Diane and Ron believe it's essential to help and mentor young people, which is why Lakehead University is close to their hearts. "I know how hard it can be," Ron observes, "I've had to support myself since I was 13 because my family couldn't afford to feed me." The strain of balancing school, work, and sports caused him to fail three years of high school. Later, he had to temporarily drop out of York University to earn more money to pay his tuition.
Ron persevered, he says, "because I came into my own when I went to university." Postsecondary education gave Ron the opportunity to be a competitive swimmer and rugby player as well as develop his mind.
He would go on to teach high school science in Brantford, Ontario. During this period, he introduced himself to Diane at the suggestion of her next-door neighbours. Diane was then working as a library assistant in Lakehead University's Faculty of Education after graduating at the top of her class from Lakehead's library program.
Meeting each other was a turning point – they were engaged by Christmas and Ron left teaching to start a successful restaurant franchise in Simcoe, Ontario. "Our honeymoon was spent on a Pizza Delight training course," Diane recalls.
When Diane and Ron retired, they moved to Thunder Bay and immersed themselves in the community. "People ask me, 'Why are you giving away so much money?'" Ron says, "and I answer, 'How much do you need to be happy?' You've got to help your fellow man."
A Challenge to All Alumni
Diane and Ron Watson encourage Lakehead alumni to take up the challenge of paying it forward – it will transform students' lives as well as your own.