Briercrest names First Nations bursary after Jolly family

Posted: May 27, 2013

A heroic journey by a Cree family is being recognized by their alma mater.

The Jolly Family Bursary has been started to help indigenous students come to Briercrest College and Seminary. The endowed bursary is intended to assist incoming or returning First Nations students including non-status, Inuit and Metis students. The first award will be presented this fall.

Brian Gobbett, associate professor of history at Briercrest, explained that the Jolly family members are distinguished alumni. All four of the Jolly brothers came to Caronport for part or all of their studies.

“When we look at where they’ve gone and what they’ve done, we see excellence in all kinds of areas. (They are) real leaders within the Cree community,” Gobbett said.

He explained that Allan is a stalwart in the Cree Gospel Chapel in Moose Factory and has worked for the economic development of his community in profound ways. Abraham is the director general of the Cree School Board in Quebec, Joseph and his wife Sheila (also a Briercrest graduate) have an important counselling presence in northern Ontario and Howard pastors a First Nations church in Winnipeg.

“I think when you weigh the efforts of this family you will see the huge contribution that they are making to their people and to society,” Gobbett said. “They are worthy recipients of whatever honour we bestow upon them.”

One such honour was an honorary doctorate presented to Abraham by President Dwayne Uglem.

“We honoured Abraham Jolly with an honorary doctorate at graduation but we also wanted to honour the entire family who has served their people so amazingly well. The Jolly family has had such an impact on the people of their region that we decided to name our recently created bursary for Aboriginal students the Jolly Family Bursary.”

Uglem also acknowledged the accomplishments of the family at the commencement.

“The story of your family is remarkable,” he said during the ceremony. “I honour how your brother, Allan, has turned the tent city ofMoose Factoryinto a community with land and houses and employment in just 40 short years. I honour how your brother, Joe, for decades has counselled and walked with communities across the North as they embrace what it means to pursue life. I honour how your brother, Howard, has ministered through music across this nation and now in the leadership of the church inWinnipegand the delivery of education withProvidence.”

Speaking on behalf of the family, Abraham Jolly said the family is pleased to have its name attached to the bursary.

“It is an honour that we have something under the name of the Jolly Family Bursary and just the recognition that has been given to our name,” he said, adding that Briercrest has impacted his family greatly.

“I was a young Christian when I came here and so were my brothers and so this was the place that founded us on our faith. The teaching that came from here and the learning that I got from here prepared us to go forward from here . . . in some ways whatever impact we may have had began here.”

Abraham added that the bursary is also another indication of Briercrest’s willingness to continue to work with, learn from, and understand the culture of his people.

“I think Briercrest wasn’t really that sure of how they would treat First Nations and I think that has grown over the years. I think that has to do with how we have grown as well and the way that we contribute to it now and the way we are able to raise things about our context and I think we are creating some understanding about it and I think Briercrest is working at that as well.”

Individuals and foundations have already given over $30,000 toward the endowed bursary.

“Briercrest recognizes that we need to provide meaningful bursary and scholarship help for students that don’t have the means to come here and this is our way of trying to enable that to take place,” Gobbett said.

“This endowment speaks to the generational relationship that we want to have with the indigenous community in Canada and that in the years and decades to come the Jolly Family Bursary will provide help for Aboriginal students that might have financial need and wish to come to an institution like Briercrest,”Gobbett continued. “Briercrest has not always been sensitive to Aboriginal peoples and we hope that in the years ahead our relationship with indigenous communities and individuals will be marked by deep respect and transformative learning from one another.”

Anyone wishing to contribute to the Jolly Family Bursary may give online at or by phone toll free at 1.888.581.2050.