“How did you meet?” is an irresistible question to ask a couple who appear to be soul mates, seemingly fated to fall in love given the right circumstances. For Robert Hammond, the love story began over tea in his apartment in Prince George. “She wasn’t very keen to come up to my apartment,” he says, “So I left the door wide open.” Robert and Leone (“Nonie”) met in December 1964 and were married the following October, a relationship that lasted until Nonie’s recent passing.
Robert was born and raised in Scotland, and came to Canada in 1955. When he met Nonie, she was a UBC alumna with a Bachelor of Arts and a teaching credential from the Vancouver Normal School, where students trained as teachers before the Faculty of Education was established at UBC.
“We were both working in Prince George, me for the federal government and Nonie as a teacher,” Robert says. “She really loved teaching, and she was very good at it; she was always in demand.”
After they married the Hammonds moved to Vancouver, where they lived initially in Kerrisdale and later in White Rock. Nonie’s ties to UBC remained strong. “She had two friends who were teaching in the Faculty of Science,” Robert says, “and she used to love going out to campus to visit them and having lunch in the Student Union Building.” The couple also attended performances at the Chan Centre and various lectures on campus.
Robert and Nonie’s interest in UBC deepened when they attended the Class of 1946 reunion in 2006. “I was really impressed by the students and alumni, and at that point we decided to make our first gift,” he says. “Nonie and I then started thinking about how to make a more enduring impact, and we decided to create a bursary to provide financial assistance for students. We both valued our educations and how they helped us to live fulfilling and comfortable lives, and this was a way to help other students do the same.”
After Nonie’s passing Robert completed the establishment of a bursary for students in Education, Social Work or Music, reflecting the couple’s belief in these three areas as the foundations of a civil, sustainable society.
Robert is modest about his contribution yet enthusiastic about the process. “Neither Nonie or I did anything famous, but we both tried to do something beneficial in our own way,” he says. “I would encourage all alumni to jump into the scholarship and bursary pool. It’s easy and the water makes you feel good.”