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All-star alum

Athlete, academic and community leader turns challenges into opportunities

special feature: Student success spring 2018

Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring 2018 convocation ceremonies.


By Lisa Pendergast

The past five years at Memorial University have been Claire Skanes’ time to shine — but it hasn’t come easy.

The newly minted engineering graduate and Sea-Hawks standout is taking her place among Memorial’s class of 2018, thanks to incredible perseverance, a tremendous amount of hard work and a helping hand.

“I was considering other universities in my last year of high school, but the scholarship I received from Memorial really made the decision for me to come here, because it gave me the ability to attend university and not be concerned about my financial situation,” said Ms. Skanes.

“By providing people with scholarships and funding, it allows those who really need that help to live their dreams. Memorial has been one of the best experiences of my life and without my scholarship and playing soccer, things could have been light-years different!”

Real impact

Ms. Skanes received The Warren and Catherine Ball Memorial Entrance Scholarship in 2013. Originally established in 2005 by a generous donation from the estate of Dr. and Mrs. Ball, the award is valued at $7,500 per year for up to four years of study for first-time university students.

Since the beginning of her time at Memorial, Ms. Skanes has honoured that gift by making a real impact on the university and the wider community.

The Sea-Hawks soccer player earned the U Sports Academic All-Canadian distinction five years in a row, an honour awarded to varsity athletes who maintain an academic standing of 80 per cent or better. Receiving the award for five consecutive years puts her in select company as a member of Memorial’s Athletic Honour Society, the highest possible varsity distinction that can be bestowed upon a Memorial University athlete.

Claire Skanes (centre), five-time U Sports Academic All-Canadian and member of Memorial’s Athletic Honour Society.
Photo: Memorial Athletics

Ms. Skanes also received the 2017 Atlantic University Sports (AUS) Conference Community Service Award to recognize her volunteer contributions to the Easter Seals swimming program and Ronald McDonald House. She was also involved in student leadership as vice-president external for Memorial’s Engineering Society from 2014-16.

Ms. Skanes’ dedication to academics, sport and community made her a fitting recipient of The Erin Bursey Memorial Leadership Award in 2018.

“[Claire] demonstrates her commitment to leadership through her actions.” — Dr. Karen Murphy

The award was established by family and friends in memory of Erin Bursey, a Memorial student and women’s volleyball athlete who exhibited exceptional leadership skills, academic excellence and passion for her sport.

“The work that Erin’s family and friends have done to create the Erin Bursey Memorial Leadership award is having an impact on our next generation of student leaders and Claire Skanes is wonderful example of that,” said Dr. Karen Murphy, director, varsity athletics, at Memorial.

“Claire is a leader. She demonstrates her commitment to leadership through her actions and her example as an outstanding student, high performance athlete and committed community volunteer. Memorial University is fortunate to have her represent us and we are proud to count her among our alumni.”

More than a sport

Ms. Skanes says her passion for soccer has influenced many areas of her life. She says it “is so much more” than a sport to her.

“Both of my parents died when I was in junior high school. I used soccer as a mechanism to deal with this stress and the friends that I made in those years as well, as their families are now my own. Soccer allowed me to continue my life and has brought me so much joy.”

So where will the future take Ms. Skanes, now that she officially graduated on May 31? To medical school.

“There are people in my family who have had mental health issues, so that spurred my interest in medicine,” she said.

“I spent a lot of time growing up around the health system. That made me realize that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I also did one of my engineering work terms in a hospital in Calgary — it really solidified for me that I wanted to work in this area. I’m excited about what the future holds.”


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