Then and now: really — half a century?!

Picturing the bo(a)orders: graduating, in 1969, after three years at St. Catherine’s School for Girls in Richmond, Virginia, and composing a life between the lines.

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In the summer of 1968, my mother and I made a pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island, Canada, the setting and inspiration for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.  PEI felt like home; I vowed to return.  Secretly that fall, I applied to only one college: Prince of Wales College, L.M. Montgomery’s alma mater, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  After our June 1969 graduation and much too late to apply anywhere else, I received a letter telling me PWC no longer existed but I could come to the newly amalgamated University of Prince Edward Island if I wished.  Yikes! But of course I went and was so early that I was the very first student to register at the new school. 

Except for the time I spent in England doing a Ph.D., I stayed in Canada and  became a Canadian citizen; taught English literature for thirty years in two universities; founded a research institute in 1993 devoted to the study and informed celebration of Montgomery’s life, works, culture, and influence (www.lmmontgomery.ca); wrote books and articles on Anthony Trollope and on Montgomery; and eventually served as the first woman president of the University of Prince Edward Island (www.elizabethepperly.com).  I became Professor Emerita of English in 2007 and received an honorary doctorate ten years later.  That is the black-and-white snapshot.  The colour version has warmth and a laugh track.

When I graduated from St. C., I thought I would be a writer of fiction and a geologist.  I imagined I would live again in Virginia. I assumed I would probably get married and have children of my own.  I am so glad life has surprised me again and again!  I still love fiction and rocks, and my partner (of almost 30 thirty years) and my step children and step grandchildren remind me every day that Wordsworth was right: we do half create what we perceive. The other half is a gift.

– Betsy

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