Helping others earn their degree

2015 was a big year for Tracey McGillivray. It marked both her 50th birthday and her long-awaited graduation from Acadia University. It's also the same year she established the McGillivray Athletic Award, a scholarship for female student-athletes in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs. The award provides $1,000 to a qualifying student-athlete each year.

McGillivray focused on student-athletes because she believes they become some of the most successful employees after graduation. “They know how to play their position on a team and how to gut it out when the going gets tough.”

She was also keen to help others enjoy the same Acadia experience she did. “A degree from Acadia is earned. It’s not bought and it’s not given to you. The classroom experience, combined with the strong international community, and the level of school pride, sets Acadia apart,” she says.

Tracey McGillivray ('15)

An example of determination

An operations and business development expert, McGillivray’s work has taken her to the U.S., Southeast Asia and most recently back to Canada, where she is Vice-President of IT Services at Rogers Communications.

McGillivray first arrived at Acadia in 1983 to begin her Bachelor of Computer Science. She recalls her classroom experience as “a cut above. I learned things that I fall back on to this day,” she says. She also reminisces about the people she met and the buzz of campus life. “I loved studying alongside students from America, China, Iraq, Libya, Singapore and
Vietnam. In this small university in a little town in Nova Scotia, you had a microcosm of the world.”

Besides her studies, McGillivray was an RA in Dennis House and played volleyball with the varsity Axewomen. She was always struck by the level of school spirit at Acadia. “Whenever there was a men’s basketball game, Acadia’s gym was packed,” she recollects. “By the noise level and the passion, you’d think you were in the Superdome!”

McGillivray thrived academically and in her extracurricular activities, but during the final semester of her degree she
faced serious health problems. Pneumonia forced her to miss a lot of class time and, while she managed to finish her
coursework and final exams, she was unable to complete the requisite project course.

Cathartic experience

Fast-forward 30 years and McGillivray decided it was high time to earn her moment in the Convocation limelight. “I
had made up my mind that I wanted to graduate before I turned 50!” she says.

She contacted Sharon Watson, senior administrative secretary in the Jodrey School of Computer
Science, who immediately remembered McGillivray from her time there in the ’80s. Watson put McGillivray in touch with Dr. Darcy Benoit to ask about completing the course.

When McGillivray described her career since leaving Acadia, Benoit suggested she write a paper on some aspect of her
experience in the field. She chose the science behind running an effective IT Service Desk. “It was a cathartic experience to put what I had learned on paper,” she says, “and Dr. Benoit gave me an A!”

With all her program credits finally banked, McGillivray arrived in Wolfville for Convocation weekend in May 2015.
She met other Computer Science graduates who immediately welcomed her and asked about her story.

“I was a bit of an anomaly for them,” McGillivray says. “I was older than most of their parents.” However, “meeting the
next generation of graduates gave me a lot of optimism for the future. I don’t think they’re afraid of hard work and I don’t think they have the same sense of entitlement as previous generations. I came away feeling so positive and hopeful.”

Click to learn more about the McGillivray Award. 

Creating a named award

Named student awards can be created at Acadia University for less than $100 a month, making an incredible impact on our students. To discuss your options, please contact Executive Director of Philanthropy Nancy Handrigan (’92) at 902-585-1042 or

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the alumni magazine, the Bulletin. Click to read more.


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