Don’t try to convince alumni Drs. Don (BASc ’72) and Judi (BASc ’72) Hall that opposites attract.

The Halls have shared much in common over the past five decades and walked together down the same pathway to success in both their academic and professional lives. They agree the best thing to ever happen to them, however, was meeting as classmates in their first year at the University of Lethbridge in 1968.

It wasn’t long after they first set eyes on each other in their opening-semester calculus course that Judi knew she’d found her soul mate.

It was amazing to both find someone I was so attracted to and who had my same passion for science. At a more practical level, I’d met someone whose idea of a great evening was to have bologna sandwiches with textbooks open and arguing over an equation. - Judi Hall

Don, who remembers getting to class early that day and watching as the other students filed in, agrees it was a case of instant attraction on his part too.

“Suddenly, this amazing girl appeared, and after that, I noticed no one else,” says Don, adding he soon realized it was a forever thing when he couldn’t imagine life without her.

The couple married after their second year of university and have remained virtually inseparable. Don and Judi would graduate together, both with Great Distinction and as the first-ever, four-year physics grads at ULethbridge. They each earned four-year graduate studies scholarships through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and packed their bags for Ontario.

Not sure what to do with a married couple, Queen’s University made efforts to ensure their research areas were widely disparate, Don in theory of liquids and Judi in theoretical nuclear physics. They both received their masters’ degree and PhD in theoretical physics and went on to pursue careers in the Canadian nuclear industry at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. together.

The prospect of spending their personal and work lives together didn’t scare them off, and they spent more than eight years at the Chalk River Laboratories, north of Ottawa. In fact, Judi says working together strengthened their relationship, as they could relate to what was going on for the other person.

“If we hadn’t been sharing our work, we would have barely seen each other,” she adds. “The hours were long, getting up at 6 a.m. to commute, and sometimes not heading home until well after midnight. Or, in Don’s case, spending hours in the middle of the night in a reactor hall.”

The Halls moved back to Lethbridge in 1989 due to health issues. Today, both at the age of 73, Don and Judi still continue to work together, and they now share their creative efforts with their online business Gingezel, a site about art, fashion and décor. They also enjoy creating imaginary worlds as they write their science fiction novels.

Looking back at their lives and careers, they were compelled to give back to the place where their story together began, and help the next generation of scientists.

The couple set up the Don and Judi Hall Scholarship in Physics & Mathematics to provide support for an outstanding senior-level physics, computer science or mathematics undergraduate student.

The motivation behind setting up the scholarship stems from the financial challenges they faced as newly married students. They lived in a basement flat with second-hand furnishings and Judi remembers signing out a calculator from the Department of Physics so they could figure their grocery bill down to the penny before reaching the cashier.

“We both remembered how grateful we were for the scholarships we received at the University of Lethbridge,” says Don. “And when we were in a position to do so, we decided it would be good to help out current students in the same way.”

This year, their first scholarship was awarded. Tallia Mills, a fourth-year mathematics/education major, is the first recipient of that scholarship, an honour she says has motivated her even further to work hard and learn as much as she can.

“This scholarship has meant the world to me as it has supported and encouraged me to keep working towards my goals,” she says, adding it took a real weight off her shoulders financially. “It reminds me that our time and effort as students is not invisible and that our passion for math and physics is shared by past and present students.”

For the Halls, seeing the impact their gift has had on Tallia is especially meaningful.

“Tallia sent us a lovely note, thanking us and telling us of her dreams to be a teacher. We wished her well, and told her about teachers who had very much shaped our lives for the better,” says Don.

They were very pleased, added Judi, to be able to help someone so obviously caring and dedicated.

Tallia Mills, recipient of the inaugural Don and Judi Hall Scholarship in Physics & Mathematics