Newfoundland and Labrador’s strategic location at the eastern edge of North America positioned the province to play a key role during the First and Second World Wars.
A new gift to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences honours that history by inspiring new scholarship and research.
A donation from Dr. Kathleen LeGrow (Hon. LLD’14) will establish the endowment support fund for the Ewart A. Pratt Post-Doctoral Fellowship in N.L. Military, Naval and Maritime History in the Department of History at Memorial.
The gift honours Dr. LeGrow’s late father, Ewart Pratt, a successful businessman whose career was shaped by his service during the Second World War as an officer in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve.
Source of pride
“It’s important for Newfoundlanders to know about this and to be proud of it,” said Dr. LeGrow.
The province’s military past is notable, she says, but our current contributions to the country’s armed forces are, as well.
For example, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Atlantic Canada in general, is represented in the Canadian Armed Forces at a level much higher than our overall population within the country, she points out.
“I wanted to do this in his memory, because it was difficult for him to do what he did.”
Dr. LeGrow credits the late Dr. Art May, former Memorial University president, for his vision to recognize and showcase Newfoundland and Labrador’s maritime history, particularly the area of naval service.
“Dr. May was part of a committee that I chaired several years ago and we worked together on options of how best to ensure future generations were aware and proud of this history,” she said. “One of his recommendations was the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, through research opportunities, as a way to achieve this and he deserves a lot of credit.”
Dr. LeGrow notes that she has worked for some time to establish a gift in her father’s memory and to preserve the province’s wide-ranging military history.
She is pleased that her father’s legacy will be honoured through this gift, which will contribute to the study of something that is also a source of personal pride for her family.
Recognizing military service
The gift will support post-doctoral fellows conducting research focused on the province’s rich military, naval and maritime history.
Mr. Pratt’s service included time on three of the corvettes that patrolled the eastern seaboard and ensured its safety during the Second World War, specifically during the Battle of the Atlantic.
The vessels protected and escorted troops, supplies and merchant marine ships crossing the Atlantic from Halifax and St. John’s to the British Isles, work that was vital to the war effort in Europe and around the globe.
“I wanted to do this in his memory, because it was difficult for him to do what he did,” Dr. LeGrow said.
Dr. LeGrow’s parents were newly married when war broke out. Mr. Pratt’s service meant her mother and father were frequently apart, his location often kept confidential due to safety concerns.
The family also has other military connections. For example, Dr. LeGrow’s great-uncle served with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War and survived the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel.
Ongoing research support
The gift will play an important role both in supporting and adding to the work on local military, naval and maritime history happening in the faculty, which includes researchers in several Humanities and Social Sciences departments and Memorial University’s Maritime History Archive.
Dr. Stephan Curtis, head of the Department of History, says he is “extremely grateful” for the donation.
“These funds will enable new scholars to make valuable contributions to the study of Atlantic and Newfoundland and Labrador history, enhance our students’ education and add to the exciting and innovative research that members of the department are already conducting,” he said.
“We are looking forward to welcoming recipients of these funds and integrating them into the department.”
Dr. LeGrow says she is glad to have an opportunity to support the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and encourages other alumni to support the faculty and research into local history.
“This is our history, and this is our only university.”
She emphasizes the need to further research and preserve the province’s rich and ongoing military and maritime history that has played such an important economic, civic and cultural role not just here at home, but throughout the world.
“This is our history, and this is our only university. If we don’t preserve it and study it, no other university is going to do it for us.”
Grateful for the opportunity
Dr. Jennifer Simpson, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, says the gift is a “great opportunity” for the Department of History and the entire faculty.
“The endowment support fund brings a new scholar into the department, and it also deepens our attention to this important aspect of our province’s history and supports internal and external engagement,” Dr. Simpson said. “We are very appreciative of Dr. LeGrow’s contribution.”
President Vianne Timmons echoes her appreciation for the gift, noting how closely it aligns with the university’s special obligation to the province and impact as a living memorial.
“Memorial’s identity is reflected in this fellowship and the work that will result from the future scholars who receive it,” said Dr. Timmons.
“As a Newfoundlander who served during the Second World War, Ewart Pratt represents those whose dedication and sacrifice inspired the founding of our university. We honour them every day through learning and education, as we strive to make our province and world a better place. This donation will help us achieve that goal in many ways. We are so grateful to Dr. LeGrow for this gift.”