Celebrating a loving marriage and a dedicated teacher

June 07, 2024

Ed and Laura McLeish are seen smiling in this photo from sometime in 1942.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of scholarships and you do not have to look any further than the story behind one of Western Education’s own awards to find a reason why.

Ed McLeish, whose name makes up one half of the annual Laura and Ed McLeish Scholarship, grew up as the youngest of eight in a family that relied on farming for a living.

No one in the family had yet gone to university and Ed likely would have followed suit were it not for him winning Western University’s County Scholarship in 1931. This award offered a financial lifeline for pursuing postsecondary education and would later open the door to one of Ed’s greatest passions.

That’s the story as told by Ed and Laura’s daughter, Dr. Anne Croy, a Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University.

Anne now serves as a caretaker for the Laura and Ed McLeish Scholarship, which she describes as an award that not only pays forward the opportunity her father was once given, but also celebrates the love and marriage of her late parents.

A dedicated teacher

Ed’s multi-decade journey with Western University began with an undergraduate degree in math and physics. Afterwards, between 1935 and 1936, Ed went on to receive his teaching diploma as he eyed a future as an educator.

Ed McLeish is named recipient of the County ScholarshipEd McLeish is named recipient of the County Scholarship.

But Ed’s dream was put on hold as the Second World War broke out. Instead, he enlisted in Canada’s military reserve, where he would instruct cadets and eventually meet his wife, Laura.

Anne says the two married in 1942 before Ed was shipped overseas for further military service. Progressing to the rank of Lieutenant, Ed was a highly decorated veteran, having earned several recognitions for his service including the Military Cross.

When he returned to Canada after the war, Ed began his teaching career at a school in Mount Forest. It was around this time that Anne was born.

Over the next decade or so, Ed taught math and ran cadet courses at Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton, before teaching at several other schools in the province, often opening and heading math departments wherever he taught.

Eventually, Ed and his family found their way back to London, where he would instruct aspiring teachers at the city’s teacher training institution, Althouse College, which would later become Western’s Faculty of Education in 1974.

Laura maintained an active role on campus too, and served as a member of Western’s Senior Alumni Program. Living in their home on Sarnia Road right near the Faculty of Education, Anne says her parents would often have Western students renting out their basement apartment.

A photo of Laura McLeish from 1941A photo of Laura McLeish from 1941.

“There was a very, very, very strong family connection to the university,” Anne added.

Even in retirement. Ed was still able to feed his education passion as he began volunteering at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. The Sherrif at the time took note of Ed’s work and nominated him to the Ontario Parole Board, where he served for a number of years, according to Anne.

“He served on the parole board because he wanted the young men who were incarcerated to get their high school degrees,” Anne said.

“He was doing a lot of tutoring of people who were in a little bit of trouble.”

As for her own experience with her mom and dad, Anne remembers a household that encouraged her to keep up with her studies, describing her parents as “voracious, voracious readers.”

Anne inherited this affinity for books and recalls having read her mother’s leather-bound set of Charles Dickens novels before she reached Grade 8. Anne jokes that it was rather weird for a child that age to have been reading at that level.

“It probably got passed on to my children because I always told them they could have whatever they wanted, as long as it was a book. I will pay any amount of money for a book. I won’t buy you toys, I won’t buy you bicycles or skateboards, but I will buy you a book,” Anne added.

Ed would continue teaching and tutoring until he passed away in 2000, but his legacy would soon be carried on in the form of a student award.

The Laura and Ed McLeish Scholarship

It may come as a surprise to every recipient of the Laura and Ed McLeish Scholarship that a pivotal moment in the award’s creation took place inside a cluttered basement.

Sometime after Ed had passed away, Anne and her siblings were tasked with cleaning various parts of their parents’ home.

When Anne got to the basement, she found “a big Western folder and all the information about a legacy donation.”

“It looked like he was starting to do something but had never completed it,” Anne said, adding that she immediately brought the discovery to her mother’s attention.

“About two years later, she kept telling me somebody was visiting the house from Western and then the scholarship existed.”

The scholarship was fuelled by donations from the Western community, including members of the Senior Alumni Program and those who played in the bridge club that Ed and Laura belonged to. Support also poured in from Anne’s late younger brother, who directed his life insurance policy toward the new award.

Currently, the scholarship awards two students each year in Western’s Teacher Education program for their academic achievement, with a preference given to teacher candidates with mathematics as a teaching subject, a nod to Ed’s teaching subject.

Anne makes sure to attend each Spring Awards ceremony at the Faculty of Education so that she can meet the recipients and tell them about the names behind the scholarship.

While recipients will resonate most with the teaching aspect of the award, Anne emphasizes that the scholarship is just as much a testament to the love her parents shared.

“I think that’s what my mom felt — rather than memorializing dad, it was more a celebration of the two of them.”

Dr. Anne Croy stands between the 2023 recipients of the Laura & Ed McLeish Scholarship.