Distinguished alumna, Dr. Rita L. Irwin treasures the education she received as a student in the University of Lethbridge’s Faculty of Education. As someone who has walked the path that current education students are following, Rita knows how valuable timely financial support can be.

With that in mind, she is happy to assist future teachers along the road to their careers through the Rita L. Irwin Scholarship for Art Education. The $1,000 award was created to encourage students continuing in a Bachelor of Education program with a major in Art Education.

A professor of Art Education and distinguished university scholar at the University of British Columbia, Rita has also established scholarships at her other two alma maters, the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia. One of her motivations has its roots in her involvement with setting up scholarships at Olds Agricultural College in the names of her uncle and her father. After experiencing her father’s pride in creating a legacy for himself and his brother, Rita was inspired to follow in their footsteps: “I was taken with how meaningful it was for him to be able to create the scholarship and to know students were receiving more support,” she says.

Rita, who was raised on a farm near Barons, feels the same sense of pride in her scholarships, including the award in her name at the U of L to help future teachers with a focus on Art Education. “We desperately need them in education,” says Rita, adding she is glad to do her part to support students pursuing arts and education.

As a professor in Art Education, Rita believes the art component needs to be valued and appreciated. “The more donors can show support for areas that tend to be under appreciated in the schools, the greater the possibility of enhancing and strengthening these programs in the schools. I’m very thankful for what I received from the U of L,” Rita says.

I’m aware of faculties of education across Canada and the prominent position the University of Lethbridge has in the preparation of teachers for the profession, and I’m proud to have been associated with the U of L as I began my career as a teacher.”

Last year’s winner of the Rita L. Irwin Scholarship, Kenzie (Campbell) Groenheide, expresses her gratitude for the award in this way:

Thank you very much for choosing me as a recipient for this scholarship. It was incredibly unexpected and relieved a lot of financial stress going into the new school year by covering different costs with tuition, especially with it being such a difficult year with COVID and lack of work. I appreciate it so much.”

The U of L Faculty of Education is just as appreciative of Rita’s generous gift. Dr. Robin Bright, Interim Dean, Faculty of Education, says the contribution speaks to the importance “of recognizing the value of arts education, and for it to come from an alumnus means so much to our students and to our faculty.” Bright notes that research shows how arts education in the schools supports everything from social and emotional health, to academic achievement, to civic engagement. “Rita's contribution to our students is a contribution to arts education and all that it supports,” says Bright.

Writer: Dave Sulz
Photo courtesy of Dr. Rita Irwin


For more information please contact:

Darcy Tamayose
Communications • Dean's Office • Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
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