Sandra Harrison

Sandra Harrison

Coffee with … Sandra Harrison

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

Before settling in the Comox Valley, Sandra Harrison had two questions: Is there a good library? And is there a place to take courses?

Both answers were affirmative, and Harrison decided to make Courtenay her home.

It didn’t take her long to find Comox Valley ElderCollege, a volunteer-driven school for people 55 and older which operates out of North Island College.

“It’s such a great opportunity,” said Harrison, chair of ElderCollege’s executive committee. “And there’s a social aspect.”

Born in Saskatchewan and raised in Edmonton, Harrison started out in nursing but instead trained for social work.

She wound up working at the Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Centre in Alberta, as a case worker, a probation officer and a program manager.

“Along the way I was what people call a ‘warden’,” said Harrison, who helped the federal correctional system to plan five penitentiaries for women across Canada.

She then served as vice-president on the Alberta mental health board, and was later appointed by the lieutenant-governor as the mental health patient advocate for Alberta, which is like an ombudsperson position.

“I had the most interesting career. I was never bored.”

After retiring “for the second time” in 2010, she hooked up that fall with ElderCollege, which consists of about 140 volunteers and 1,200 members — students — from “all walks of life.” The program includes a Saturday morning lecture series, which has featured the likes of Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May and former Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken. Harrison herself lectured on the criminal justice system.

Aside from lifelong learning, Harrison enjoys travelling. She’s been to Thailand, Australia and Oman, among other places. She’s also been to Barcelona, London, Santa Fe and Chicago on ‘road scholar’ trips.

“It’s a good excuse to travel,” Harrison said. “There’s so many ways to learn.”

Last summer at the University of Oxford in England, she took a course that examined the role of the British Broadcasting Corporation — behind the scenes — in the Second World War. She stayed at the Christ Church campus.

“We ate what they call ‘in hall.’ It’s the dining hall where they filmed Harry Potter. And on the walls are portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and Henry VIII. If you like history, you just get that sense.”

Harrison is also a dog lover — she has two of them — and takes an interest in genealogy. She is a member of a local family history group.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A donated towel warms a merlin chick. Photo supplied
MARS Moment: 2021 shaping up to be a record-setting year for animal rescues

Submitted by Jane Sproull Thomson Special to Black Press With the pandemic,… Continue reading

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
19 Wing Comox crew involved in three-tonne cocaine seizure worth more than $3 million

12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron involved in Op Caribbe

File photo of Gord Johns during World Oceans Day.
Courtenay-Alberni MP outlines priorities for federal budget

Universal pharmacare, affordable housing and Pacific wild salmon are some of the… Continue reading

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations in Gold River area

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Volunteers sort through bottles and cans during Saturday's fundraiser for hospice. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Valley hospice holds drive-through bottle drive

Bike team is fundraising for the annual Cycle of Life tour on Vancouver Island

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

South Surrey farmland, March 2020. The province’s crackdown on secondary residences sparked protests that have the NDP government engaged in a lengthy rewrite of its legislation. (Tracy Holmes/Peace Arch News)
B.C. NDP now wants to keep even ‘non-farmers’ on the land

‘Grandfathering’ of second residences extended again

Most Read