April 6, 2016 – E is for Education

Something I have grown to admire and appreciate is education. An acquaintance of ours was the first person in his family to go to college and then go on and get a PhD. In chatting one day I told him about my family history of education. He was kind of awed by the story and I realized that maybe not everyone had had the opportunities that my Mom and Dad’s families had had.

On my Mom’s side education was highly valued going back to the 1700’s. My gr gr grandfather had been educated in Ireland in a time when Catholics had a hard time getting an education. He had had some legal and medical training and it helped him greatly when he arrived in Canada. The same held true for his son and his wife. The son had an 8th grade education but had been exposed to reading books and newspapers to make the world a bigger place that just the farm community. Charles wife Emily came from a family that had sent their daughter to a convent school and she was trained as a teacher. So she wanted her two children, my grandfather and his sister to be educated as well.

The thought was that my grandfather O’Connor was too frail to be a farmer so first they sent him to teachers college in Ottawa. He taught for a while but then they sent him to Medical School at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. He married a teacher and they had 8 children. Of those the two sons became doctors, four of the daughters graduated from college and two had masters degrees. The youngest two daughters became nurses. Grandfather even moved his practice to Kingston so that if his children wanted to attend Queen’s University they could walk to school and live at home. He had been very poor (financially) while at Queen’s and at times had to take time off to get more funds to be able to continue.

On my Dad’s side his grandfather had owned a successful tailoring business in England. Some of the sons followed in his footsteps but others went on to university and became engineers or entered into different fields. My grandfather came from England and attended the University of Toronto and was studying to become a minister. Not sure what happened but he did not graduate but later attended a school in Meadville PA to become the minister that he wanted to be. My Dad graduated from the U of Toronto in Pharmacy and his brother from St. Lawrence University. My Grandfather was so proud of his sons.

There was no doubt in my parent’s minds that we would all attend college. And when I look at my cousins, siblings and their children on my mom’s side I see how education has brought them a good quality to their lives. At this point in time I am not sure how many PhD’s my mother’s parents would have had on the gr grandchild level but there are quite a few of them. And lots of educators, writers, physicians, lawyers, engineers, sales people, etc. If they were alive they would be quite proud of all of us.

I think it is something to be proud of that in two generations our family has gone from farmers to a highly educated group of individuals and that our children are for the most part pursuing being well educated themselves.

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