Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Remembering A Remarkable Xaverian: Celebrating the life and legacy of Jeannine Deveau 

January 26th, 2023
Bill Gunn, nephew and representative of Jeannine Deveau, talks about "Auntie J" as members of the Xaverian community gathered to remember and celebrate a remarkable Xaverian

The life and legacy of a remarkable Xaverian was celebrated Jan. 25, 2023 as members of the StFX community gathered to pay tribute to the late Jeannine Deveau and the contributions she has made to StFX—impacting countless lives—during a ceremony held in the Joyce Family Atrium of Mulroney Hall.

Ms. Deveau’s extraordinary legacy, centred around closing educational gaps for Indigenous students and African Nova Scotian students, has enabled so many people to realize their dreams, speaker after speaker noted in remarks. 

“What a privilege it is to have this celebration on campus,” StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin said as he described Ms. Deveau as an example of what it means to be a Xaverian, someone who gives back, who challenges the status quo, and who acts on the belief that they can and they will make a difference. 

“What an honour it is for this institution to be part of that thinking.” 

StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin offers remarks

The celebration provided an opportunity for the campus community to get to know Ms. Deveau more fully and understand the impact she’s had, and to reflect on how we might also serve others. 

Ms. Deveau, who passed away in July 2022, three weeks shy of her 99th birthday, was the force behind the Jeannine Deveau Educational Equity Endowment, established at StFX over seven years ago to help remove barriers to postsecondary educating facing Indigenous students and African Nova Scotian students. 

The $8 million gift from Ms. Deveau, a member of the Class of 1944 who enjoyed a successful career as a nutrition professor in Montreal, remains the largest single donation from an alumnus to the university. 

When the Deveau Fund was announced in October 2015, it was said to have the power to transform lives. This has certainly proved true. Since that time, it has helped to address the disparities in postsecondary education opportunities for African Nova Scotian and Indigenous students and has awarded nearly 800 scholarships and bursaries to date. 

Ms. Deveau has also supported myriad initiatives such as X-Project, the Circle of Abundance, the Elder-in-Residence program, and the McKenna Racial Justice Leadership grants, to name a few. 


“I see every day how her legacy is living on in all of us who benefit from the Jeannine Deveau Educational Equity Endowment,” said Dean of Education Dr. Lace Marie Brogden, who also chairs the internal working group associated with the fund. 

Dean of Education Dr. Lace Marie Brogden

Dr. Brogden says she sees firsthand the enormous and positive impact on students, the university, and the broader community, and the countless dreams it has enabled.  

“Not only has the endowment provided hundreds of scholarships and bursaries for undergraduate students, I’m particularly pleased to note that the more recent establishment of the Sherman Deveau Fund now supports graduate students in the Faculty of Education, as well,” she says. “There are countless examples of students whose dreams have been facilitated by Jeannine Deveau.”

“It goes far beyond funding,” agreed StFX student Marcel Desmond, a Deveau Scholar, who recalled being in Grade 7 when the Deveau Fund was established and the excitement surrounding the historic announcement. 

StFX student Marcel Desmond

The fund’s far-reaching impact is deeply felt in the possibilities it enables, he says, including allowing the next generation of students to be able to see themselves at StFX, to see themselves attending university.

The difference the fund makes is in its holistic approach, he says. Along with scholarship funding, it offers mental health support, tutoring, “making sure we have that safety net where people don’t fall through the cracks.” 

Terena Francis, StFX Coordinator of Indigenous Student Affairs, spoke of how Ms. Deveau’s gift helped changed the landscape at StFX, of how it helped her office gain needed funding and resources to connect Indigenous students with crucial academic supports, to host cultural events, to establish the Indigenous student centre, Kiknu, and to help build community that helps support student success.  

Terena Francis, StFX Coordinator of Indigenous Student Affairs

Ms. Deveau’s gift also helped reinvigorate and expand X-Project. a student society that offers educational and leadership support in Indigenous and African-Nova Scotian communities in the Antigonish area. StFX student Sierra Julian, a society member and former participant, spoke from personal experience on the impact X-Project has had and continues to have. 


Bill Gunn, Ms. Deveau’s nephew and representative, gave fuller insight into Ms. Deveau, or “Auntie J,” telling stories of the Arichat, NS native who earned a master’s in nutrition and later wisely (and self-taught) became a successful investor. He described her as an elegant, sophisticated, eminently adaptable person with a wry sense of humour who was deeply devoted to her family. She did not live extravagantly. 

Once when he asked her why she wanted to do this, she replied it’s the right thing to do, he said. The educational inequalities she knew existed were not fair, and since she could do something about it, she would. 

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