By Charlotte Peak (’13)
Being a member of the Acadia alumni community makes for a small world – you don’t have to look too hard to connect with a fellow grad. In fact, a number of small businesses across Nova Scotia have made the job even easier, displaying signs that read: “Acadia alumni owned and operated”.
Wolfville-based Old Sign and Birdhouse Co., owned by designer Melissa Rees and her woodworking husband, Jason, makes the signs. The couple has been approached for the Acadia alumni signs by numerous businesses, from a dental office to insurance broker.
While the signs are all unique, each incorporates the Acadia “A”. Melissa uses this as the starting point for designing a template. Jason then cuts out the sign and Melissa paints it by hand.
“I have only ever made these kinds of signs for Acadia alumni,” Melissa says. “They do seem to have a real sense of pride in their University that doesn’t end when they graduate.”
Displaying Acadia pride
Joe Kinsman (’02), co-owner of Southwest Nova Insurance Group Inc., is one such proud alumnus. Kinsman says he was quick to have a sign made when his office moved to Wolfville a couple of years ago.
For him, the relocation was a return to his hometown. Recalling his childhood spent between diving sessions in the Acadia pool, summer soccer and basketball camps, and winters “hurtling down U-Hall hill on a sled with friends,” Kinsman says he “literally grew up on the Acadia campus.”
While studying for his BA in Recreation Management, Kinsman won multiple provincial and maritime championships with the rugby team. “Our teams were always a force,” he remembers warmly.
Kinsman’s three brothers – Aaron (’94), Ben (’00) and Karl (’00) – attended Acadia too, as well as his late father, Paul Kinsman (’52), a renowned physician and local politician.
“I have always been very proud to be from Wolfville and to have attended the University in the town where I grew up,” Kinsman says. “I guess my connection, and my family’s connection, to Acadia and Wolfville were the subconscious motivation behind the sign.”
Maintaining connections and building new ones
A strong connection to Acadia is something Jeff Redden (’81), owner of Home Hardware in Windsor, N.S., is keen to maintain. Both Redden and his wife Joanne (’83) are proud Acadia grads. Redden ordered a sign from Rees in 2010 when his store underwent a major expansion.
“I got the idea for the sign from Wolfville’s Library Pub,” Redden says. “I thought their sign was pretty cool and it brought back instant fond memories.”
Redden has been thrilled to find the sign often generates conversation. “Acadia alumni notice it. They may or may not know me, but when they walk through the door having seen that sign, we’re able to make a connection,” he says.
Cindy James (’87), owner of Petite Urban Pooch in Halifax, has had a similar experience. She had a sign made when her doggy daycare opened in 2014. “I’m a proud alumna and I wanted to identify with other Acadia alumni,” she says.
The desire to relate and connect is common to Acadia alumni the world over, says Acadia’s Executive Director of Alumni Affairs, Ian Murray (’88). “I’ve met alumni both here at home and around the globe and the story is always the same; we’re family.”
As for the signs, Murray thinks it’s wonderful that business owners feel strongly enough about their Acadia experience “to declare it publicly in such a unique and interesting way. I’m not surprised they’re so popular,” he adds.
Melissa Rees is delighted but not surprised also at the demand for the signs. “These alumni proudly identify themselves in their community and show that they are lifelong members of Acadia,” she says. “It’s truly a compliment to the University!”
Melissa Rees and her husband Jason of Old Sign and Birdhouse Co.
Jeff Redden's sign at the Home Hardware in Windsor, N.S.