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Elmira’s Bryant honoured by UW’s Renison College

Local environmental advocate Susan Bryant was honoured Jan. 16 at Renison University College in Waterloo for her work on local water protection initiatives.
The former Renison English instructor, now an honourary fellow of the college, was one of seven people recognized at the annual Founders’ Day celebrations.

Renison’s director of development and alumni affairs, Caroline Woerns, said recognizing contributions and saying thank you to members of the Renison community is a part of the college’s tradition.

“It’s who we are. It’s really about connecting people to people and for us not to be able to recognize those in our community, especially those near and dear to us like Susan is, with some type of an honor to say ‘thank you for what you’ve done,’ would be very remiss,” she said.

Bryant, an Elmira resident, is the founder of APT, a local environmental group, and has also been an active member of the Chemtura Public Advisory committee (CPAC) since 1989.

She got involved immediately after the water crisis that followed the discovery contaminants from what was then
Uniroyal Chemical had rendered the groundwater under Elmira undrinkable.

“It was just a big shock to me and to other people in this community that this could happen and that we could suddenly lose our whole water supply because we’d not been attending to what was getting down there, so I’ve worked on water protection issues ever since,” she said.

Bryant’s environmental work has also led her to help establish a large garden at Renison. The East-West Garden represents the Asian Studies programs offered at the college.

“It’s quite a unique, large garden that takes up the whole courtyard,” said Bryant. “It’s native species and their East-Asian counterparts.”

Woerns sees the garden as a quiet and reflective place at the heart of the college grounds.

“It’s a wonderful place to enjoy some open air space. It’s got a lovely feel to it. It can be whatever you need it to be.”

Bryant said she was thrilled to be given the honoury designation and says she often attends the annual celebration, full of pomp and circumstance.

“Renison was an Anglican college in the beginning, so it’s a lot of marching around and gowns and hoods from your university,” she laughs. “We had some beautiful music from the Conrad Grebel choir. The there’s the citations and then a very nice dinner. It was a lovely occasion. They do it up very well.”

Bryant was excited about the award, but remained light-hearted about the experience.

“I think they gave me the award because they want me to continue to weed the garden,” she joked. “I’m sure that was part of it.”

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