Good things come in small packages
Though she was only four foot eleven, Betty Riddell's outsized strength of character made her an impressive figure. When she was finishing nursing studies in her native Manitoba, the Second World War broke out. She offered her services to the Canadian army, which refused to take her, no doubt due to her short stature. Completely unperturbed, she rushed to enlist in the American army, serving for 35 months.
She then returned to Canada to pursue a stimulating career as a nurse and administrator. Frugal by nature and wanting to make a difference in people's lives, Riddell managed to accumulate enough funds over time through savings and wise investments to leave major bequests to the causes that mattered most to her: the arts, animals and education. After her death in 2011, at age 96, the impact of her great generosity was felt throughout the region, including at the University of Ottawa.
Nathalie Rigg was the first recipient of the Nurse Betty Riddell Foundation Scholarship, which offers financial assistance to a person registered in the nursing program at the University of Ottawa. For her, as for Riddell in her time, nothing came on a silver platter: "I come from a single parent family, and one of my siblings has special needs. So the biggest obstacle I face daily is financial." The scholarship Riddell created eased the financial burden for Rigg, who is now starting her third year in the program.
"Betty created this scholarship specifically to facilitate access to studies for financially disadvantaged people," says lawyer Michel Drapeau, executor of Riddell's estate. A retired colonel himself, Drapeau quickly formed a friendship with Riddell, whom he admired for her lively spirit and determination, and with whom he shared a military past.
"I think that today, as in the past, we need models," he adds. "And is there a better model than Betty Riddell? What she did was give back to society. It wasn't a donation from a family fortune — it was something she earned herself. As well, she had a really interesting career. It's an example to follow.
All her life, Riddell forged her own path. Now, it's up to the next generation to follow suit.
Did you know that by making a bequest to the University, you can reduce taxes payable on your estate?