The Short/Williamson Family

Pat Short supported the idea of a university in Northern BC as a way to improve access to higher education across the region, now her daughter Erin is helping to educate the next generation of learners in Houston.

Pat and her husband Phil of Fort St. James became two of 16,000 Northern BC residents to sign a petition calling for the creation of UNBC in the late 1980s. The campaign also asked people to contribute $5 to the cause as a way to emphasize their commitment to the cause.

It paid off. UNBC became a reality in 1990 with the signing of the UNBC Act by the provincial government.

“I was excited about the idea of UNBC,” says Pat. “To have something for the North, and the North is so huge. I also thought it would improve the level of education for all the people of the region – and it has certainly made a difference.”

Pat Short, Erin Williamson, and Phil Short, taking Erin’s children for a walk the beach in Fort St. James.
Pat Short, Erin Williamson, and Phil Short, taking Erin’s children for a walk on the beach in Fort St. James.

Erin is one of those difference makers in Houston.

As an elementary school teacher, she helps prepare her young students for the educational adventures that lay ahead. She knows what it takes to succeed in the classroom. In high school Erin was top of her class and earned a UNBC Scholars award, which included a tuition waiver for a complete undergraduate degree.

“Erin was so impressed when she went to orientation at UNBC,” says Pat.  “She really liked the attitude of the professors and the access she had to them.”

Erin went on to earn Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education degrees.

“It was great because we could see her on weekends, and she could come home if she wanted to,” says Pat. “It was much more convenient than if she was away. It seemed like we were able to help her out a more than we would have been able to otherwise.”

Pat attended the official opening of the Prince George campus on Aug. 17, 1994. A few years later, Phil helped Erin move into residence.

“We loved Northern BC and we wanted our children to have the chance to study here,” says Pat. “We thought it would be much more convenient to have it in Prince George than to have it somewhere else like Kamloops or Vancouver.”

Erin has children of her own now, and Phil says it would be great to see his grandchildren attend UNBC, to continue what may become a Short tradition.

“UNBC really provided that promise of higher learning,” says Phil. “It’s  really inspiring to have a university for the North.”

Were you one of the 16,000 who signed the petition? Tell us your story here: