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Purple Leaf
Margarete and John Wollatt

The gift of education

There are a few things in life that could make Margarete, a shy, studious woman, lose her cool. But when someone once suggested that a student from an underprivileged background be kept from attending university, she couldn’t hold back her opinion.

“I really see red when I heard people being disparaged because they don’t have much money, or because they don’t fit the mold of a ‘typical’ university student,” she says, reflecting on the incident that occurred decades ago when she was studying to be a teacher.

When Margarete’s parents came to Canada from Austria, they didn’t have the means to send her to university. Still, her father stressed the importance of education and took her to visit Laurier (then known as Waterloo Lutheran University).

There she discovered that she was eligible for a scholarship that covered the costs of her tuition and books during her four years of study. It came as a vote of confidence; she saw it as motivation to work hard. Her focus was so strong, and her desire to study so absolute, that at first she turned down the opportunity to get to know the man who would one day become her husband.

John was a teacher’s assistant for the geography class that Margarete took as part of her history degree. It was their shared love of learning that cemented their connection. After meeting in 1964, John returned to Laurier to do his master’s degree. Margarete rejected his first request to go out because of her studies, but John convinced her that they could together. They did so all year long and wed the following year. They both became high school teachers.

The couple has been married now for nearly 40 years. When it came time to discuss their wills, the conversation sparked memories of the past and reignited Margarete’s convictions. They decided to leave a bequest to Laurier to help students in financial need. The belief that an individual’s education benefits not only one’s self but also everyone in the community has been a guiding principle in her life. It led Margarete to Laurier and to John. And it would make her dad proud.

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