Dorothy Lander Responds to StFX Honour Feb. 16 2023

The StFX Extension Department and Coady International Institute presented Dorothy and John with a beautiful fresh flower bouquet.  Four HARP publications are among their donation of climate action/climate justice books, including Hope Unleashed by Sara avMaat (forthcoming), ReReading Catharine Parr Traill (, Mi’kmaw Fiddler Joe Marble Plays to St. Anne ( and Illness and the Art of Creative Expression (

Dorothy’s Response to this Honour

As I’ve told Lynn and Emilie, I feel as if I’m receiving the equivalent of an Academy Award.  So I’ve prepared an acceptance speech.

First, I want to acknowledge Dr. Teresa MacNeil.  Without Teresa, I would not be in Antigonish or receiving this honour today.  In 1975, I met with Teresa MacNeil and Luke Batdorf in the Skyline Hotel in Ottawa, and they accepted me into the Master of Adult Education program. Teresa founded this program and I was in one of the early cohorts.  Ellie MacFarlane of StFX’s Nursing Department was in my cohort.

The People’s Photo Album celebrating the 90th anniversary of the StFX Extension Department was also the first publication of our healing arts publishing house, HARP Publishing The People’s Press.  Teresa has a lifelong connection to the Extension Department and the Antigonish Movement and is well represented in the Album.

When John and I compiled the Album, complete with 800+ photos from local and global collections — archives, family photo albums, scrapbooks — tracing the evolving history of the Antigonish Movement, we saw ourselves as supporters of the Extension Department AND the Coady International Institute.   Looking out on all of you here, many of whom are in the Album, I have this feeling of watching my past lives roll by.  Our HARP catchphrase says it all: A healthy community knows its history.

The Album highlights service and the arts as central to the Antigonish Movement, alongside Cooperation and Adult Education.  Service and the arts have in common that they get slipped in sideways and often do not get credit as the vital drivers of this and every other social justice movement.

For 20 years, I was privileged to lead service operations at StFX – residences, food service, cleaning services, summer conferences — and I launched my late-in-life academic career in adult education with a research focus on the Adult Learning surround of the Service University, using StFX as my model.  My first peer-reviewed journal article entitled Can Martha Know? Can Mary Serve? was my only publication when I was appointed to a tenure-track position in the Department of Adult Education in 1997. Thank you, Leona English, for putting Can Martha Know? Can Mary Serve? through your keen editorial eye.  I walked 40 yards west from my service office in the basement of Morrison Hall hard by the clatter of the industrial dishwasher to my new ground-level QUIET knowledge office in Xavier Hall with its arched window and Trinity motif – a reminder that I was now occupying the original academic and religious centre of StFX. 

I shall defer to the academic practice of citing scholars to support my research.  These words of French Jesuit priest Michel de Certeau, known as the philosopher of everyday life, capture the dualism of service and knowledge in higher education. They appear in my research article entitled Back to the Future of the Service University.

As part of my service job, I reviewed financial statements for ancillary services, which presented actual against budget.  The ancillary qualifier is telling.   Service is not ancillary to the mission of the university — it is core.

The knowledge involved in serving others “is not known… It is a knowledge that the subjects do not reflect. They bear witness to it without being able to appropriate it. They are in the end the renters and not the owners of their own know-how. Like that of poets and painters, the know-how of daily practices… belongs to no one” (de Certeau, 1984, p. 71).

As Residence and Food Services Manager, I was responsible for cleaning services supervisors and staff, numbering over 50.  They served as my ears and eyes — and heart — putting service at the centre of Residence Life. Many of you will know the big stories of the Antigonish Movement—the People’s Schools, the People’s Library, Tompkinsville cooperative housing, Sister Marie Michael’s study circles, the birth of the credit union, the first year of the Coady Institute in 1959.  I would like to share a few “small stories” that will not make the official history of the Antigonish Movement or StFX Extension and the Coady Institute. Many come from cleaning staff as “evidence” that the Antigonish Movement unfolds in everyday service outside the classroom. Some stories reveal how the Antigonish Movement has shifted and evolved in its priorities.  Other stories will stay in the vault, some of you will be glad to hear.  You will not be surprised that some involve the Marthas, founding members of the Antigonish Movement.  

Just last week, I ran into Sheree Christie, who was on our housekeeping team, and learned that she had been awarded the honourary X ring.  I beamed with pride that she had received this recognition, the first ever for a member of StFX cleaning staff. Rachel MacFarlane was Sheree’s last supervisor and before we sadly lost Rachel last year, she was able to tell Sherri, “They finally got it right.”  John and I met Rachel in her previous position at the Coady; she was part of the development team that chose the artists who would receive support from our Endowment Fund — and who have come to enrich our lives. 

Sheree and I reminisced about Sister Ann Aloyse Thorne, the Martha who was the official supervisor of housekeepers and in practice, of the janitors too.  Sister A A (as Father Donald MacGillivray called her) was diabetic and Sherri remembered that after she had one leg amputated, she would continue make her rounds on crutches.   Sister Ann Aloyse was known affectionately as “Sarge,” because she served in the women’s army corps (WAC) during the Second World War.  She did not fit the stereotype of a sergeant major, but she did run a tight ship.  She supplied the cleaning staff’s arsenal with toothbrushes, to clean those hard-to-get-at places.

Some of you will remember Donald and Helen who were a couple working in cleaning services.  They negotiated to re-schedule Helen’s start time on the evening shift so Donald could drive their one car back home to the county after his day shift, turn over the car keys, and take over childcare responsibilities where Helen had left off.   After that success, they negotiated a schedule change so they could fit in piano lessons for one of their children.  

The Coady diploma course overlapped with undergraduate students, eating together in Morrison Hall. The menus at Morrison took the Coady participants into account and there were more rice dishes in the fall semester.   Coady participants were often shocked with the food waste, and one year, members of the Student’s Union food service committee stationed themselves by the dishwasher and for one week kept detailed records of the food waste. Shocking indeed!  When Sean Layden, now a Disability Lawyer with the Lenehan Musgrave law firm in Dartmouth, was the Housing Commissioner, he created more engagement between undergraduates and Coady participants, by organizing a soccer match.  The Coady participants won handily.

Jim Healy was my first Housing Commissioner and part of my steep learning curve around our fairly adversarial relationship, which nowadays has grown into a congenial relationship on email and Instagram. He has warm memories of Alma MacLean on the front line in the Residence Office, specifically how she broke the rules and issued a new meal ticket for Morrison — meal tickets were punch cards in those days — when he didn’t have the funds to pay for the one he had lost.  I’ve told him the interest is mounting up!! 

Jim also offers compelling evidence of the evolving Antigonish Movement.  Jim emailed me with permission to tell his stories today and added, “darling Alma! ! What a gem of a Human Being!! She helped far more Folks in addition to me!

In the late 1970s, homophobia was rampant. Jim was able to share his struggles without judgement with Dean of Students Brian MacDonald, Counselling Centre’s Fr. Greg Campbell, and Verna MacDonald, Residence Director in Plessis House.  In 2023, we have X-Pride Month, a Positive Space program led by Professor Joanne Tompkins, rainbow crosswalks, a Gender and Sexual Diversity Advisor offering services to 2SLGBTQ+ students, and the widely popular Priscilla Queen of the Highlands under Professor Chris Fraser’s leadership

Who remembers in the 1980s, Steve Konchalski — Coach K — recruited three basketball players from the Central African Republic? French-speaking Richard Bella, Guy Mbongo, and Aristide Nguilibet.    Like the airlines, I overbooked rooms in residence, knowing there would be no shows and early cancellations in September.  The three newcomers from Africa were on my waiting list.  Coach K haunted our Residence Office until we came up with three rooms.  I’m pretty sure we allowed his protégées to jump the queue.

I dedicated my doctoral thesis Telling Tales Out of School to two dear friends and exemplary service workers, Alma Maclean and Mary Lillian MacDonald.   Alma, the hospitality centre for the Residence Office, was way more than Secretary and Conference Coordinator.   Chief Librarian Father Charles Brewer would loan Mary Lillian (aka Kitty V to the priests) to us during September opening to hand out the bed linen – yes, in those days StFX supplied and laundered it. Those of you who know Mary Lillian know she did far more than hand out sheets and pillowcases — her welcoming warmth was a first encounter for new students at X. The whole time I was in Nottingham doing doctoral studies, I would receive a handwritten letter from Mary Lillian every few weeks, telling me the on-the-ground news from StFX.  The lost art of the handwritten letter – Kitty V exemplifies Service and the Arts coming together in the Antigonish Movement.

As Athletic Director, Fr. George Kehoe presented a community supporter award at the Annual Athletic Banquet.  Two Marthas received it one year, Mary Lillian MacDonald (then Sister Lillian) and Sister Monica Doyle.  Mary Lillian as StFX’s most loyal fan attending every sports event in every weather condition. When she received the Friend of StFX Alumni Award in 2010, she was escorted into the hall with an honour guard of cheering basketball players (Video link )

Sister Monica looked after the priests’ personal laundry, diligently sewed name tags on the athletic teams’ uniforms, collected winter clothes for the Coady participants and did their washing and mending. I remember her work as a labour of love, as she cheerfully sang hymns all the while. One of the pluses of sharing the same building as St. Martha’s Convent.

Ed McHugh, now full-time Business faculty at the Nova Scotia Community College, told me that 40 years on, he still knows the telephone number for the Residence Office — 867-3970 — but not one of his professors. That telephone number was students’ lifeline to Alma.   I hosted her retirement party in 1995 just before I left to take up doctoral studies at the University of Nottingham. I composed a piece of doggerel around one of Alma’s favourite expressions: It’ll All Come Out in the Wash.  By the end, the whole room was chanting the chorus, It’ll All Come Out in the Wash.

When I wrote that piece of doggerel, I doubted that It Would All Come Out in the Wash.  But here I am today, it did come out in the wash.

And now, some good adult ed practice, I would love to hear from you any small stories of the Antigonish Movement in everyday practice that my stories remind you of.

Alma is always a friend

To the lovelorn, the sick at heart

Compassion at life’s lonely end

An encouraging word at the start

Alma is big on advice

When Dorothy was lonely for love.

“Short radio men can be nice,”

Said Alma and cooed like a dove.

But what did Alma Advise:

It’ll All Come Out in the Wash

The Residence Office that was

It hummed like a well-oiled machine

The last year has tested her mettle

How to cope with a break in the team

Best retire and put on the kettle

Things are never as bad as they seem.

And forever after, what was Alma heard to say:

It’ll All Come Out in the Wash.

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Posted by John Graham-Pole I don’t know when Dorothy and I became elders, but I’ll date it from our simultaneous

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