Giving thanks: Dr. Merv and Marilyn Letts pay homage to prairie roots with new BU award for Minnedosa students

October 7, 2021

A man and woman stand in a treed area. Each of them is holding an apple.
A generous donation of stock by Merv and Marilyn Letts will fund the endowment of the Minnedosa Valley Scholarship/Bursary at BU.

Life has taken Merv and Marilyn Letts to cities around the world, and they are celebrating their prairie roots by creating a new award that will help future generations of Brandon University (BU) students achieve their goals.

By generously donating stock, valued at approximately $45,000, they are funding the endowment of the Minnedosa Valley Scholarship/Bursary at BU. With an annual value of about $2,025 per year, the award will support students from Minnedosa Collegiate Institute who display strong academic, leadership, athletic and social skills in pursuing their post-secondary education at BU.

“I still consider myself a prairie kid,” said Merv, who grew up in Minnedosa before attending Brandon College. “I look back fondly on my childhood and small-town life.

“There is a great deal of energy and talent in prairie small towns, and I hope that this gift will help others realize what they can accomplish when they dream big.”

Merv’s happy memories of his childhood also inspired him to write a book, “Flashbacks of a Prairie Kid,” based on his experiences in rural Manitoba, and echoed by others in any number of prairie communities in Canada.

Merv grew up in Minnedosa, where he graduated from Crossly Collegiate, while Marilyn was born and schooled in Wellwood, about 50 kilometres from Minnedosa. Merv attended Brandon College from 1958 to 1960 for his pre-medicine studies, and both he and Marilyn went on to graduate from the University of Manitoba, Merv in Medicine and Marilyn in Science.

Merv enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Medical Officer, with postings at the National Defence Medical Centre in Ottawa and the United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt. Marilyn joined the United Nations, working in Beirut. Following military service, Merv continued his post-graduate research and education at Queen’s University and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He was subsequently appointed Head of Paediatric Orthopaedics at the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital as well as Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Manitoba. In 1991 they moved to Ottawa, where Merv held orthopaedic and surgery leadership positions at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the University of Ottawa, and Marilyn worked as a Researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Ottawa.

In 2003, Merv’s career took them to the United Arab Emirates where Merv established a paediatric orthopaedic service at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi, and Marilyn participated in child health care. They returned to Ottawa in 2009 where they currently reside.

“It’s inspiring to see people like Merv and Marilyn giving back to the small towns that got them started,” said Paige Cuvelier, Development Officer at BU. “Rural communities, such as Minnedosa, are essential to BU. Merv and Marilyn have experienced great success, and sharing their story strengthens the connections between BU and the surrounding area.”