By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
When the Université de Sherbrooke reached out to its deputy director of graduate studies, Claude Villeneuve, about making a donation, he decided to take it a step further, instead choosing to set up a scholarship fund in honour of his late husband, Alain Harvey.
The Claude Villeneuve and Alain Harvey Scholarship sponsors one student for the duration of their bachelor’s degree at the university, whether it’s three or four years, Villeneuve explained. The scholarship focuses on promoting sexual and gender diversity.
Being apart of the LGBTQ+ community, he wanted to put a spotlight on its young, outstanding members striving to make changes and eliminate discrimination and hate. But, Villeneuve added, the funding can also go to someone outside of the community.
“We’re asking to have proof of their engagement in an association, or movement, or something that has worked to help diversity and inclusion at the cegep level or something like that,” he said. “It could also be in a civil movement, not necessarily at school.”
For many people, Villeneuve continued, coming out as gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual remains an extremely difficult and tricky situation. It’s not obvious to everyone, though, people think that just because it’s 2020 there are no more problems, but they still need help, he said.
“I’ve had it easy in my life being gay and everything and it seems to be easy in 2020, but it’s not for everybody,” said Villeneuve. “There are so many situations where someone cannot be who they are and be free to live their life as they see themselves.”
He signed off on the scholarship about a month ago. According to Villeneuve, he will not be involved in the candidate selection and deliberation process, but he provided the university with a set of guidelines.
He described the scholarship as a melting pot, fusing his work as deputy director and Harvey’s work as a graphic design professor at the Cégep de Sherbrooke. Harvey prepared them for university and Villeneuve accepted them into their program.
“Well it’s his legacy, probably too strong of a word, but it’s something like that,” Villeneuve said. “We didn’t have any kids, we didn’t want any kids, it was part of our way of life, but giving money to students is, in a way, helping the kids that we didn’t have.”
He describes Harvey, who passed away after a short battle with cancer in 2017, as an outgoing person. He was always smiling and laughing, Villeneuve recalled, and he really liked being around people.
“We lived in North Hatley, I still live here, and everybody knew us, everybody knew Alain, especially because he was retired and he was very present in the village and talking to people,” he said.
Villeneuve is funding the scholarship completely on his own, but the idea is to create a fund that runs in perpetuity. He said it needs to sustain itself once he is gone from the university, and “gone from the surface of the earth.”
He hopes to attract more donations to the fund so that it can eventually support more than one student at a time. Harvey would have loved this initiative, Villeneuve conclude, although he would probably have preferred to remain slightly more low key.
“He would be shy about it, he wouldn’t want to talk about it,” he said. “He wouldn’t do what I’m doing now, but he would be very proud.”