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ANTIGONISH: Amid cheers and applause, the StFX community gathered on September 26 to officially cut the ribbon on the Elizabeth and Thomas Rankin School of Nursing and to recognize and celebrate the profound, lasting impact the Rankins’ generous gift will have on education at StFX.

The Rankin School of Nursing was named in honour of Tom and Elizabeth’s long legacy of giving back, and in particular their support of health care. Tom Rankin, CEO of Rankin Construction Inc., a 1960 StFX engineering graduate and native of Judique now living in St. Catharines, Ontario, donated $2 million to his alma mater to support both the School of Nursing and the Xaverian Fund for Scholarships and Bursaries.

Of the amount, $1.5 million supported renovations to Mount Saint Bernard, where the School of Nursing is housed, and specifically to create a state-of-the-art Nursing Simulation Learning Centre, an impressive lab built to resemble a clinical practice that provides valuable experiential learning opportunities for nursing students.

As well, $500,000 supports the Xaverian Fund, established by StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald with a goal of raising $50 million so that all academically focused and socially engaged students can attend StFX regardless of financial background.

“This is just an incredible gift back to your alma mater, Tom, and Beth, to a school you know well. I want to deeply thank you,” Dr. MacDonald said as he recognized the Rankins, in attendance at the ceremony, and noted their gift not only changes the face of nursing at StFX, but provides a world class facility for faculty and nurse educators to teach and for students to learn.

The School of Nursing has always produced excellent graduates, he said. Now they have a top-notch facility to further enhance the learning experience.

Dr. MacDonald also took time to thank the couple for their generous gift to the Xaverian Fund.

“The Rankin School holds your name,” he said. “Young people will come to this school that you may never meet, simply because of your generosity.”

“This is a great honour for me and my wife,” Tom Rankin said as he thanked friends and family, including a group of his former StFX classmates, who travelled from Ontario, Halifax, Dartmouth and Judique to be in attendance at the ceremony.

He told those gathered they should think of his wife Beth, and not him when they think of the school, as he recognized Beth, his wife of 52 years, and a nurse herself, as the cornerstone to his family and business success.

“My wife has done an incredible job. It is so nice to have it named after her.”
He also praised the StFX nursing program.

“You have a great reputation,” he said. “We want to show we really appreciate what the nursing profession does in Nova Scotia.”

“This is just an amazing day,” echoed school of nursing interim director Dr. Joanne Whitty-Rogers. “To you, Elizabeth and Thomas Rankin, this is a really special day. Your generosity will live on forever. It will always be remembered.

“It’s unbelievable we have these facilities today,” she said as she noted the greatly improved learning environment, from student engagement areas to meeting and research rooms to the state-of-the-art Simulation Learning Centre, where students can learn in simulated situations, using mid and high fidelity manikins in hospital simulated situations that range from delivering babies to responding to a patient having a heart attack.

Dr. Whitty-Rogers says the renovations come at an opportune time as the school introduces a new nursing curriculum, and says the enhanced learning facilities will ensure the School of Nursing continues to meet accreditation standards.

“The events here today are so important for the academic mission of the university,” StFX academic vice-president and provost Dr, Kevin Wamsley said in remarks on behalf of himself and Dean of Science Dr. Petra Hauf.

During the ceremony, Dr. Hauf also unveiled a plaque recognizing the Rankins.

This generous gift provides nursing at StFX with an enhanced academic environment not just to meet standards, but to exceed them, Dr. Wamsley said.

“This is an investment in the future of StFX and nursing at StFX that will serve our students for generations,” he said.

“We are proud to have the Rankin name embedded in our School of Nursing.”

The Nursing School has long produced great graduates. The facilities will help enhance that first class education even more, said Randy Delorey, MLA for Antigonish, Minister of Finance and Treasury Board and Minister of Gaelic Affairs, who gave a few words on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia.

“What a fantastic day to be here for the grand, official opening of the Rankin School,” he said.

The transformation of the physical learning space for the Nursing Department into something so special will have a positive and lasting impact on both faculty and students, afternoon emcee, Dr. Charmaine McPherson, chair of the Department of Nursing, said.
“Tom and Beth, you are both champions of nursing and of StFX and we are honoured to bear your name on our Nursing School.”

Father Sid Mifflin, acting on behalf of Bishop Brian Dunn, provided a special blessing for the Elizabeth and Thomas Rankin School of Nursing.

Special guests at the ceremony included classmates of Tom Rankin from his days at StFX who still maintain their friendship over 50 years later, the Rankins’ grandson, Thomas, a 2015 StFX engineering graduate and Sister Veronica Matthews, a classmate who along with Tom Rankin received an honorary degree from StFX in 2015.

The ceremony concluded with the official ribbon cutting, and a tour of the school.