Earlaine Stewart Collins 1956

Since graduating from Havergal College in 1956, this year’s Old Girls Life Achievement Award winner, Earlaine Stewart Collins, has upheld Havergal’s mission to make a difference for good in the world through dedication, compassion and commitment. Her outlook on life is illustrated by a favourite saying of hers that suggests why we are born with two hands -™ one to help ourselves and one to help others.

Earlaine has truly changed the lives of many through her remarkable work. During her Havergal high school years, Earlaine volunteered at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, originally opened as a wartime veterans’ hospital to care for servicemen returning home from the Second World War. Earlaine read and wrote letters for veterans who had been blinded in action. Following her graduation from Havergal, Earlaine went on to study nursing at the University of Western Ontario. The nursing profession ideally suited her deeply held belief in providing care for those in need.

Earlaine and her late husband Gerry built a chapel at the Wellesley Hospital for patients and their families to visit for solace and prayer, as they cared for their loved ones. In 1989, they established the Gerard & Earlaine Collins Foundation and built the House of Compassion in Toronto, a Christian ministry that provides supportive care and housing to single people with mental illnesses. When she and Gerry moved to Calgary, Earlaine volunteered as a speech therapist for children.

In addition to the volunteer work which evolved from her nursing background, Earlaine developed a deep interest in music and the arts. While in Calgary, she supported the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the development of young musicians. She says, “interest in the arts was encouraged by my late husband as, together, we developed an appreciation of music, theatre and dance.” Canadian cultural institutions that have benefitted from the Gerard & Earlaine Collins Foundation’s support include the National Ballet of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Royal Ontario Museum, Canadian Opera Company, Royal Conservatory of Music, Aldeburgh Connection and many more.

Serving as a member of the Canadian Opera House Corporation Campaign Cabinet, Earlaine helped raise the $186 million necessary to establish Canada’s first purpose-built opera house -™ the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. She was a driving force in the pursuit and realization of this wonderful performance space in Toronto.

Over the years, Earlaine’s fine record of community achievement has been watched closely by her classmates. Sonia Armstrong Labatt 1956 says, “Earlaine is a role model for all of us and the pride of our class.” Another classmate, Ann McCullagh Hogarth 1956 says, “Earlaine possesses a great social conscience and has earned the respect and admiration of all who have worked with her – Earlaine is also a supreme philanthropist and has done as much or more than anyone I know for our cultural institutions in Toronto and beyond.”

In recognition of her outstanding support for the arts in Canada, Earlaine received the Governor General’s Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Volunteerism in the Performing Arts in 2012.

Written by Louise Yearwood