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New Bursary Honours Late Laurentian Lab Instructor

Legacy of Bernie Shami to support chemistry students

June 7, 2024 - A new bursary is being offered to Laurentian students in honour of the life and legacy of former Laboratory Instructor, Bernie Shami. One year after his passing on June 9th, 2023, Bernie’s family are announcing a bursary in their brother’s name.

Bernie’s sisters, Jeanne Shami and Laurie Stewart, and brother, Bob Shami are proud to arrange this gift for future Laurentian students, something they say their brother would have respected.

“Bernie would never in a million years have promoted himself in this way. He was funny, hard-working, and kind but most of all, he was a humble person,” Jeanne says, reflecting on her brother’s character. “That said, he was always willing to help students–he felt that any student could be successful if they put in the work. We feel that this bursary will help students, just like Bernie did.”

Bernie completed his degree in Organic Chemistry at Laurentian University in 1976 and took a position at Laurentian as a Lab Instructor upon graduation. A fixture in the lab for more than 35 years, until his retirement in 2012, Bernie worked with thousands of students over his career.

Many of Bernie’s students became his lifelong friends. “He could have gone on to do a PhD or work in the private sector but Bernie loved contact with students,” Jeanne recalls. “Even at the time of his passing this was clear. He had saved every card he had received from students throughout his career and in the hospital, doctors and nurses on his health care team had been former students of his.”

One former student who remained close friends with Bernie over the years is Denise Garrido whom Bernie taught in 2005. “He was a good listener and very open-minded. He was always appreciated for his patience, his ability to explain difficult concepts, and above all his humour and humanity,” she says. “It wasn’t hard to love Bernie. I am proud to have been his friend and I look forward to contributing to this fund to help future students in his honour.”

With the one year anniversary of Bernie’s passing approaching, his family was thinking about a way to honour him. “My siblings and I were thinking about this over the past few months and then I heard that my former colleague, Dr. Lynn Wells is now the President and Vice-Chancellor of Laurentian University,” said Jeanne. “The timing seemed fortuitous, and we took it as a sign to move forward with setting up this gift.”

The Shami family wants the bursary to be awarded to a student who demonstrates the same humility, humour, and humanity that Bernie did, rather than simply an acknowledgement of high academic achievements.

The family welcomes those who knew Bernie to contribute to the fund so that it may be endowed and continue to support students for many years into the future. “I know Bernie would have respected a bursary like this and would have contributed in honour of someone he cared about,” Jeanne said, “And I know that there are many who would love to do the same for him. Bernie made an impression and his legacy will continue to improve the lives of students.”

The application period for the bursary will open Fall 2024. Those wishing to contribute to the Bernie Shami Memorial Bursary can do so on the Make an Impact web page.