By: Brier Cook

When asked what inspires her to contribute to a bursary for Carleton music students, Carleton retiree and alumna Susan Nesrallah replied that she simply believes in the power of philanthropy.

“I believe in education and I believe if you don’t have the means, you deserve to be helped,” said Susan.

For Susan, education has always been a priority. Born in Lebanon, she came to Canada in 1958 and combined motherhood with a career in information technology. Formerly a high school honours student, Susan always knew she was an academic at heart. She began taking economics and political science courses at Carleton in 1982, a feat made possible by her employer covering the cost of her tuition and books.

Susan pursued her undergraduate degree in economics at Carleton by taking night classes while working a full-time position and raising her three children. She graduated in 1999 at the age of 50.

Susan is also a proud Carleton retiree, the president of the Carleton University Retirees Association, and a member of the Tory Society: Carleton’s giving society to recognize the University’s most loyal and generous donors. She worked in Carleton’s Information Technology Services department for 14 years until her retirement in 2016. Her three daughters have close Carleton ties as well – two are Carleton grads and one is a full-time employee.

Susan began giving back through Carleton to funds like the Campus Community Campaign Bursary, Student Aid Fund, and the general Annual Fund which directed her donations to areas most in need of support. She also contributes annually to her own bursary.

The Susan Nesrallah Bursary for Classical Music was established in 2011 by Susan’s daughter, Julie, a Carleton music grad, acclaimed mezzo-soprano, and the host of CBC’s classical music program TEMPO. The endowed bursary is awarded annually on the recommendation of the Department of Music to a student of classical voice enrolled in the Bachelor of Music program. Susan has given each year since it’s establishment to empower the next generation of music students.

In her own words, Susan hopes that her contributions to the bursary “give deserving students a little break” by easing the financial burden so they can pursue their studies. She credits her former employer, her daughters, and her time as a student at Carleton for inspiring her to pay it forward.

“It’s about helping people and specifically, helping young people get ahead in this world. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, you can always contribute something,” said Susan.

Behind the Donor Curtain

Do you have a favourite quote or personal motto?

We need more common sense in this world.

If you could go back in time, what profession other than your own would you like to try?

A professor in a field that has a real impact on people like economics, politics, or sociology. For interest, I’d like to attend lectures in music or literature as well.

What is your favourite spot on Carleton’s campus?

Pigiarvik (formerly Robertson Hall) because that is where I spent time with the people I really enjoyed working with. I’m not as drawn to buildings or spaces as I am to the people inside them.

What inspires you to give back to the Carleton community?

It is in my nature to give, I enjoy giving more than receiving, and I do it with all my heart.