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Couple's support helps break barriers

Dr. Sophie Gosselin and Daniel Morris created a pioneering bursary for blind students

McGill Planned Gift and Bequests donors, Dr. Sophie Gosselin and Daniel Morris, in Montreal Old Port

Daniel Morris’s vision deteriorated sharply during the four years he studied at McGill’s Macdonald campus.

“When I first started at McGill, I could actually read large bolded font,” says Morris, who is legally blind. “By the end, I had to have my exams read to me because I wasn’t able to read for myself.”

Morris persevered, earning an MSc in Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill, followed by a Graduate Diploma in Registered Dietitian Credentialing in 2014.

“I had such a good experience at McGill, in that it taught me many skills,” he says. Morris credits McGill’s Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) with helping him reach his goals. It played an essential role in his success, especially with exams, Morris says. Among other aids, he had access to a note-taker throughout his studies – a student doing the same degree.

Through funding from the Quebec government, the OSD even obtained software that could read PDF documents. “That was an enormous plus,” he recounts. “When you’re equipped with appropriate tools, everything becomes much more accessible.”

Today, Morris is a very busy man: he works as a research assistant, registered dietician and massage therapist.

He is also paving the way for others: through a generous donation, he and his wife, Dr. Sophie Gosselin, established McGill’s first scholarship for students who are legally blind or who have other physical disabilities in hopes of removing barriers to success. Morris’s motivation lies in the sky-high jobless rates in developed countries among people who are legally blind.

“We want anyone who interacts with people with visual disabilities to realize that being legally blind should no longer be a limitation to being involved in scientific work, or to finding good professional employment,” says Gosselin. “We want this assistance to help remove the financial burden that often plagues people with disabilities. Part of doing it now is that we feel very grateful for what we have, and are willing to pay it forward.”

Morris and Gosselin met hiking a glacier in New Zealand in 2004. Dr. Gosselin did her medical residency at McGill and is now a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She is also an emergency doctor and assistant director of the Emergency Department at Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de la Montérégie-Centre, and a medical toxicologist at the Quebec Poison Control Centre.

The Gosselin and Morris Accessibility Scholarship

The couple came up with the idea for a scholarship while preparing a will. They decided to establish it now, and continue supporting it through a bequest.

The scholarship recognizes students who demonstrate academic excellence and aim to become a leader for people with visual impairments. Established in 2017, the scholarship has been awarded ten times thus far.

The OSD is active on the award’s decision-making committee. The Office offers supplemental academic supports for approximately 2,500 McGill students, a number that grows every year. It includes students with traditional disabilities, such as motor, physical, visual and hearing impairments, as well as those with mental health concerns, learning disabilities, and chronic illness, among others.

“We want to ensure that students have the opportunity to demonstrate their academic abilities while positively contributing to McGill,” says OSD Director Teri Phillips​. “This scholarship has been well received and well thought of by the community because it is so personal to the donors and their lived experience. There’s a lot of meaning in this award.”

Scholarship recipients

"would like to express my sincere gratitude to both Mr. Daniel Morris and Dr. Sophie Gosselin. I am blown away by your amazing support. I am now in my final year of the joint honours mathematics and computer science program, and the funds will go a long way in helping me wrap up my studies.

I intend to pursue graduate studies and go into theoretical machine learning. My life goal is to try to leave the world a bit better than how I found it. With amazing people such as yourselves continuing to help me, I am confident it will become a reality."

- Benjamin Langer, studying Math and Computer Science
Two-time recipient of the Gosselin and Morris Accessibility Scholarship

 

"I am studying social work at McGill and I have been legally blind since I was 14 years old. Living with visual impairment is very hard, but my physical disability has never stopped me from gaining knowledge, improving my quality of life, and most importantly, achieving my desires.

I am very appreciative of the Gosselin and Morris Accessibility Scholarship. I want to express a big thank you to those who have established this financial support and helped me to make a better world for me and my future clients."

- Nassim Nouzad, studying social work
Two-time recipient of the Gosselin and Morris Accessibility Scholarship


Morris and Gosselin believe that as members of the McGill community, the recipients are in a good position to educate others about the capabilities of people who are legally blind.

From memory, Morris believes his lowest mark at McGill was an A-minus; he even received an award for academic excellence. High achievement mattered to him: he explains that as a pioneer for students with visual impairments, he felt that his own success could help show that having a physical disability is not an indicator of a person’s academic potential. “Doing well at university is not just due to intelligence, but to an incredible amount of hard work and discipline.”

Speaking of their shared motivations, Dr. Gosselin notes that, “We feel fortunate to have met each other and to do what we love, and we want other people to be able to do the same.”

What will your legacy be?
McGill is celebrating its 200th anniversary with the goal of securing 200 legacy gifts. For more information, please contact us.

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