Alumni mentors making a difference

Mount Allison alumnus Phil TibboMount Allison graduates can be found around the world, working in just about every field you can imagine. One of the most powerful ways they give back to their alma mater is through mentoring current students.

In an effort to create more opportunities for one-on-one mentorship, Mount Allison created the Alumni Career Mentorship Program in 2015. The program matches a student in their final year with an alumni mentor.

Jacob McGavin (’17) participated in the program last year.

“I really wanted to talk to a physician or someone who was currently practising medicine because I had already applied to med schools and was waiting to hear back,” says McGavin, who is currently attending medical school at the University of Toronto.

McGavin was matched with Dr. Phil Tibbo (’86) who was both exactly what McGavin was looking for and not at all what he expected.

“I had never considered that I might be matched with a psychiatrist, so that in itself was interesting. It gave me a really good glimpse into a specialty I hadn’t considered,” he says.

Jacob McGavin“And I was looking for someone to tell me exactly what to do, but instead Phil was good about being a guide. Instead of giving me the answers, he told me what I should consider to shape my own decision. He was the voice in my head that I needed at the time.”

Tibbo says he enjoyed connecting with a current student and being able to share knowledge and life experience.

“My mentors were so influential in where I am today,” he says. “The whole mentoring process, when it works, is an amazing process.”

Mentorship program participantsThe two ended up working together after the mentorship ended — McGavin was hired as a summer intern with the Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program, which Tibbo directs.

“I think it is really important to make those sorts of connections,” McGavin says “Now that I have graduated from Mount A, I’m excited to do stuff like this as well. Alumni have a lot to offer.”

To find out more about becoming a mentor, contact Mona Estabrooks at

Lifelong volunteering

Mount Allison alumna Barbie SmithBarbie Smith (’75, ‘76) has volunteered at Mount Allison so often that she is now called on to help out at reunions even beyond her own.

This year she handcrafted a replica of the Class of 1967’s rabbit mascot to raffle off for their 50th Reunion, even consulting the archives for specific details like its top hat.

Elected life class president in 1975 — the first woman to hold that office — Smith has organized eight five-year reunions and led fund raising for her class gift to The Meighen Centre. She also joined the Alumni Board, serving for 12 years, including two as chair, and is a mentor to Mount A students interested in a teaching career.

Reunion volunteersSmith says she gets as much from volunteering as she gives.

“People I didn’t know when I was going to Mount A are now friends of mine because I’ve met them over the reunion years,” she says.

She adds that her parents (both Allisonians, as are her two brothers and her daughter Hilary) inspired her through their example.

“That was part of our growing up, that you give back to your community. And this is a community that is important to me,” she says.

Devoted to athletics

Alumni volunteer Norval McConnellNorval McConnell (‘80) started volunteering in the late 1980s to raise money for the men’s basketball team he played on as a student, and he’s never stopped.

For several years, he’s helped organize the Homecoming Golf Classic, raising funds for athletics. With 28 teams registered and many sponsorships, the event raised more than $30,000 in 2017, the most successful to date. His effort is now even more special because his daughter Sara is a second-year Allisonian playing on the field hockey team.

McConnell, who majored in chemistry and went on to a 32-year career in teaching and school administration, says the tournament is also a great way to reconnect with fellow alumni.

Golf tournment volunteersHe did just that last year with three fellow Hunton House residents who he hadn’t seen in 30 years, kicking off a summer golf game that promises to be an annual tradition. This year he played at the tournament with four other Mounties basketball friends.

McConnell says ensuring current students have the same opportunities he did motivates his volunteerism.

He says his daughter’s attendance reminds him of just how long he’s been connected to Mount Allison — her graduation year coincides with the 40th anniversary of McConnell’s own graduation.

And McConnell continues to find new ways to give back: this year he is serving as chair of the 2018 CCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, which takes place at Mount Allison in March 2018.