Mabel Young: a generous life steeped in education and music

Mabel Young (’63) has devoted her life to music and supporting students’ dreams.

As a new Acadia music student in 1960, she was delighted that piano instruction would be included in her tuition. Later, a fellow student in her residence introduced her to playing the organ, which became a lifelong passion. Today, Mabel still plays the organ at churches in Hamilton, Ontario, where she lives.

Now retired from a long and rewarding career as a counsellor and educator, Mabel continues to encourage students. In 2014, she established a Young Entrance Scholarship in Music. While preference is for any student studying organ, it may be awarded to any entering student with an interest in pursuing church music.

Then, in 2020, she established a second Young Entrance Scholarship as part of Campaign for Acadia. This one is awarded to entering students in any discipline in recognition of academic achievement.

She has also donated generously for repairs to the Manning Memorial Chapel organ and has made gifts during class anniversary years.

Starting a life in Canada

When Mabel arrived at Acadia from Hong Kong in 1960, she did not expect to stay in Canada long-term. Following her graduation in 1963 with a BMus as a piano major, she earned an MA at McGill University in Montreal before returning to Hong Kong. There, she secured a position at the all-boys King’s College.

Three years passed, and she realized she was missing Canada. “The friends I had at Acadia, in residence for first year – my floor mates were seniors,” Mabel said in an interview for the Acadia Bulletin in 2014. “They took me under their wing and introduced me to the Canadian way of life: brownies and coffee! I spent quite a lot of time drinking coffee.” Her sister May had followed her to Acadia and graduated in 1966.

Mabel packed up and returned from Hong Kong to Canada, where she landed a job in Winnipeg. After a year, she moved to eastern Ontario, where she worked for another year before accepting positions in and around Toronto. Within a few years, she had made her home in Hamilton.

Gifts of education, culture and music

In 1979, Mabel was a founder of Columbia Secondary School, which offered university prep and instruction in English as a Second Language (ESL). She served as its principal from 1981 to 1984 and continued working there until her retirement a decade ago. In 1991, the school’s name changed to Columbia International College, and today it attracts students from more than 70 countries and is known as Canada’s largest boarding school. Its university partners include University of Toronto, McMaster, University of Waterloo, University of Alberta, and Cape Breton University.

An Olympics fanatic, Mabel has attended at least seven Olympic games over the years, as well as international sporting events including figure skating and FIFA soccer. She loves to travel, especially if the trip has a cultural or historical focus. She is also passionate about Chinese culture and visits Hong Kong regularly.

For more than 35 years, Mabel has lived in downtown Hamilton. Her home is filled with memorabilia from Acadia and her worldwide travels, a grand piano and an organ. She has many scrapbooks of special memories, including Acadia reunions, and she keeps in contact with former classmates and friends from residence.

“One of the most important reasons I give to Acadia is that my first job after Winnipeg was through a fellow Acadia alumnus,” she says. “He put a lot of faith in the fact that I graduated from Acadia. He hired me without even meeting me.”

Acadia is also in Mabel’s will, and part of her gift is a Blüthner grand piano. Blüthner pianos, first built in the 1800s, are known for the clarity, warmth and richness of their sound. They are made to last for generations. Such an instrument will reflect Mabel’s love of music as well as her generosity to Acadia and its students for years to come.

Go back

Donate Now Alumni & Friends Alumni Affairs


Office of Advancement
Rm 225 University Hall
15 University Avenue
Wolfville, NS, B4P 2R6, Canada
General Inquiries: 902.585.1026
To make a donation: 902.585.1912
Toll Free in North America:
1.866.ACADIA (1.866.222.3428)

Charitable Registration #: 106681893 RR0001