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Lakehead University Magazine Fall/Winter 2008

A Dream Come True

Lakehead honors Simcoe County community activist Sue Mulcahy

By Frances Harding

Frances Harding
Sue Mulcahy and
President Fred Gilbert
Lucille (Sue) Mulcahy, 87, has spent the better part of her life keeping a dream alive the dream of having a university in Orillia that would benefit the people of Simcoe County. Last June, at its first Convocation in Orillia, Lakehead University recognized the former city councillor for her vision and leadership by presenting her with a Civitas Award.

Although Mulcahy is not a university graduate herself (she took a secretarial course in Toronto in the 1940s after finishing high school), she is a firm believer in the way in which universities prepare citizens to contribute to a democratic society. That is why in the early 1960s she took on the task of championing the cause of building a university in her hometown. "Someone had to do it," she says.

Having "a real university" in Orillia is wonderful, says Mulcahy. "I am overwhelmed by the community's response to Lakehead University. Everyone is talking about it, and there is such a good rapport between the professors and the students... It is so far-sighted."

Mulcahy's grandfather immigrated to Canada from Ireland and settled in Orillia in 1857. Her father was an entrepreneur who started a real estate and insurance company in the city, which Sue operated from 1954 until 1997, when she retired. Miss Mulcahy is one of eight children three boys and five girls and now keeps in touch with her nieces and nephews by email.

In 1963, Mulcahy joined with others to raise funds and lobby the provincial government to build a university they hoped would be called Simcoe College. The group made an alliance with Waterloo Lutheran University, a private institution at the time, which had expressed an interest in opening a satellite campus in Orillia. They requested funds from the provincial government, and through the Simcoe College Foundation, which Sue Mulcahy chaired, they raised thousands of dollars privately enough to purchase 228 acres of land, not far from the site of Lakehead's permanent campus on Highway 11.

Unfortunately, the stars were not in alignment for the creation of a university in Simcoe County at that time. Political and academic alliances faltered. And ultimately the land was sold and the Foundation dismantled. Sue Mulcahy's dream, however, was kept alive.

In 2004, the Mayor of Orillia, Ron Stevens called the President of Lakehead University, Fred Gilbert, to see if Lakehead University would consider setting up a campus in Orillia. The rest, as they say, is history.

For Sue Mulcahy, the first recipient of the Civitas Award, Lakehead University Orillia Campus is a dream come true.

Convocation 2008

Lakehead University Orillia Campus celebrated its first Convocation last June with graduates completing the one-year Bachelor of Business Administration degree program for college transfer students. Joining them (middle l-r) Professors Alice den Otter and Joanne Ryan, and (bottom l-r) President Fred Gilbert, and Chancellor Lorne Everett.
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