Al Neale believes people should get a second chance in life, especially when it comes to education. Several years ago, he established the Al Neale Bursary Fund for a mature student who decided to upgrade his/her education at Okanagan College.
He recalls a heart-warming story related to him by Clyde Tucker. A man had left the work force to return to school to upgrade his education. “This man turned out to be a brilliant student who excelled in his studies…. he shone,” says Al. That story confirmed his idea that a bursary for mature students was worthwhile. His own life’s story includes an amusing ‘second chance’.
“When I was out of high school I went to Vancouver. I had long hair before it was fashionable. The rain made it nice and soft and I was pretty proud of it. I went to the Vancouver Hotel seeking employment and the Maitre D, George Alora, questioned me for a while, then leaned back in his chair and said, ‘The way I see it you have one of three choices: you can go to city hall and buy a dog licence, you can buy a used violin and pass yourself off as a virtuoso, or you can go to a barbershop to get your haircut and report for work at 8 in the morning.’”
He chose option #3, which turned out to be a good decision; he received good training that helped him through his various jobs.
Al entered the world of radio, writing commercials and programming. He married Beth but Al’s boss begrudged him time off so their few days of honeymoon was trampling in three feet of snow in Banff in early May. “We were the only ones there. There were no tourists. It wasn’t a spectacular honeymoon but it was memorable.”
Al says he never had a profession “but lots of dreams.”
“I guess the longest job I had was with Calgary Power. I started as a draftsman then went to the commercial department and ended up in public relations. I was the assistant editor of our company magazine.”
They adopted two children, David and Lisa. They didn’t have many years together before Beth, after several bouts of cancer plus kidney failures, died at the age of 41 in 1969, leaving Al with the two young children. His life, divided between work and his children, didn’t leave much leisure time. He understood well the financial pressure of raising a family and trying to get ahead. With this memory in mind Al established a bursary to help mature students going back to school. He says this bursary, originally intended for one student, has grown over the years to where it now provides several bursaries.
“You don’t have to start out with a big wad of money, just make annual donations. Slow but steady wins the race. Compound interest is the greatest force in the world – if you know how to harness it. The bursary has gone from one to six without any effort on my part.”
In a large envelope Al has several cards and notes, some typed, some handwritten, with messages of profuse thanks from the students whose financial burdens he helped to lighten. One of them simply says, ‘Thank you…My education is a strength I will carry proudly…”