Lois (Davidson) Lawrence ‘45

About the same time as Canadian soldiers were landing at Normandy on D-Day in June 1944, a 17-year-old Nightingale House prefect by the name of Lois Davidson was standing for a photograph on the front steps of Elmwood School with six of her fellow prefects. Unbeknownst to her, within a matter of weeks, a 21-year-old army reconnaissance lieutenant by the name of Bert Lawrence would also be going ashore at Normandy to do his part in the liberation of Europe. Strangers then, the two would marry in 1950.

The couple had four children together in a happy marriage that lasted until Bert’s death in 2007. Both of their daughters graduated from Elmwood, and today all four of their children continue to enjoy happy lives.

Lois and Bert both grew up in Rockliffe. Her father, Keith Davidson, had a lumber business founded by his father James Davidson, mayor of Ottawa in 1901. Her mother, Nan Beach, was descended from United Empire Loylaists who settled in Canada following the American Revolution.

Lois attended Rockliffe Public School before starting high school at Elmwood in the fall of 1940. It would be the beginning of five years of strong academics, and participation in sports. “I was not naturally very athletic,” she said, “but at Elmwood you had to join in because there were so few girls to make up the teams. It turned out to be a plus for me that it was a requirement.”

Lois remembers Mrs. Buck, Elmwood’s headmistress from 1920 until 1951, as an outstanding history teacher. “She was really great, but you only got her as a senior,” Lois said. “She told us that she expected all of us to get first-class honours in our provincial exams, and we did, which says something about her teaching.” When Edith Buck retired in 1951, Lois delivered the retirement speech that is now preserved in Janet Uren’s Elmwood centennial book, Endeavour’s All.

“What I got out of Elmwood was that it was actually a good idea to work at your studies, that academics mattered. I got good work habits, and I was interested in what I was learning. We had such close supervision with the small classes, and the atmosphere was to achieve academically.”

Lois would go on to university at McGill for a year before transferring to her preferred choice of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York where she completed her arts degree. “We are within a couple of short generations of when some people thought it was not necessary to give girls higher education,” Lois said. “Education is obviously important for people, no more so for boys than for girls, and the more you can get the better.”

She certainly lives her own advice, as she is a regular participant in Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement lecture series program designed for people who embrace life-long learning.” I’m always taking courses,” she said. “It’s such a different world now, really. When I was at Elmwood the idea of having a career was unusual, whereas today leaving Elmwood is just the beginning.”

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