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Kerry Willoughby wanted to provide students with an opportunity they might not otherwise have to further their education.

In his will, the Oshawa resident and local business owner made a $1.1-million donation to give students, especially single parents, the support they need to attend university. The gift established the Marjorie Elizabeth Willoughby Award. Named in honour of his wife, who as a single mother returned to school to upgrade her education.

Marjorie’s legacy lives on at the university because of Kerry’s generosity. It provides students like Marie Rolfe the opportunity to further their academic dreams.

“The gift of education can never be taken away from you and everyone should have an equal opportunity to attain it,” says Marie. “Awards like these change the lives of students.”

It did just that for Marie. With the four hours of commuting from Georgina to the Faculty of Education in downtown Oshawa each day and balancing tuition with living expenses, including the cost of daycare for her two-year-old son, Jesse, she wondered if she had made the right decision to go back to school.

News that she would receive the award cast away all of her doubts and it covers her expenses until her final semester this fall. She hopes to become a French teacher and one day give back in the same way the Willoughbys have. Until she can make a financial contribution, she’s giving back in other ways.

“What stands out the most for me in receiving this award is that now I can show up and be there for my classmates,” Marie explains. “Teacher’s college can be a struggle and we rely on one another to get through the program.”

“The Marjorie Elizabeth Willoughby Award provides more than money. It validates my efforts and my ability to contribute in my program, my career and my community.”