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A family affair

Daughters follow mother’s lead of service to Western

by Todd Devlin

Roach Family
Rev. Cheryl Roach, BScN’78 and her daughters Elizabeth, BMSc’08, MD’12, Natalie, BScN’12, and Meghan, BHSc’14, are all Western alumnae.

Two decades had passed since the Rev. Cheryl Roach, BScN’78, graduated from Western University when she found herself back in London, strolling campus with her husband, the Rev. Allan Roach, and three daughters, then 12, 9 and 6 years old.

“I remember the campus was in full bloom – the tulips, the flowering crabs, the lilacs – it was riotous with colour,” Roach recalled. “I said to the girls, ‘Maybe you guys could come here someday. I had such an awesome experience here.’”

The seed was planted right then.

Flash forward to today and the last of those three girls is finishing her work at Western. Elizabeth, BMSc’08, MD’12, and Natalie, BScN’12, have completed their studies; the youngest, Meghan, BHSc’14, is now completing a master’s degree in Physiotherapy.

Cumulatively, the four Roach women compiled 26 years of education at Western.

The university has become a family affair for the Roach family. But it all started with Cheryl, who in 1978, became the first member in her immediate family to graduate from university.

“My mother was a teacher – but those were the days of a one-year teacher’s college. There were a lot of nurses (in the family) – but they went through the hospital program back in the day,” Roach said. “They were educated women, for sure, but they didn’t go to university.”

After graduating with a Gold Medal in 1978, Roach started as a nurse at London’s Victoria Hospital at the old South Street location for three years, and then spent years working in various areas of health care and promotion.

She then answered a different calling, joining her husband, a former RCMP officer, in the ministry. The couple opened a mission for the homeless in Peterborough, Ont. – the Brock Mission – still thriving today. In 1990, they moved to Nova Scotia, where Natalie and Meghan were born, and continued their ministry work in four small churches before moving to Timmins, Ont., in 1995.

“You move around a bit in pastoral ministry, but we thought we were in Timmins for good,” said Roach. “We had no idea we’d be shifting and moving to London in 2000.”

Before that move, Elizabeth announced she wanted to become a doctor.

“Now, you don’t make a lot of money in pastoral ministry,” Roach said, with a laugh. “In Grade 12, Elizabeth came to us and said, ‘Mom, there’s a $10,000 scholarship if I get 95 percent in Grade 12. That’s what I’m going to do.’ I swallowed hard and I said, ‘Okay, well, I know you can do it.’ And she did it.”

In fact, all three Roach daughters were awarded Continuing Admissions Scholarships.

And, like their mother, each earned prestigious awards during their Western careers. Elizabeth, 29, and Meghan, 26, received Faculty Gold Medals, and Natalie, 23, was awarded a Faculty Association Scholarship. (Roach’s sister, Colleen Dawson (nee Westman), also earned a Gold Medal, graduating from Western with a degree in Education before enjoying a long teaching career.)

The financial assistance was a godsend for Cheryl and Allan, who saved diligently what they could for their daughters’ future Western education – no matter how far away they were from London. Without the scholarships, though, there was “no way” they could have managed the full costs for all three girls.

“We’re incredibly thankful for that,” Roach said. “And we want to support Western for those financial initiatives for others.”

Cheryl and Allan continue to reach others with their pastoral work at the Gathering Place in the Old East neighbourhood of London. To this day, Roach uses her nursing education every day. For her, that means serving others and making a difference in the community.

“It’s the attitude of caring,” she said. “That was so in the DNA of my program. They taught at a core level how to be ‘other-centred,’ and I soaked it up like a sponge. It was so life-giving, intellectually and emotionally.”

This article appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Alumni Gazette
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