Donald J. Travers, Law’72 (Arts’70), the scion of a family that rose from hardscrabble beginnings in rural Quebec, was able to attend law school only because of the support and encouragement of his parents – his father, in particular. Inspired by that largesse, Travers is now paying it forward, to the benefit of Queen’s Law students.
Toronto native Emile Shen, Law’23, is the first recipient of the Donald J. Travers Award, which Travers established in 2022 to support financially challenged JD students who have excelled both academically and in community service.
Travers founded and is now Managing Partner of Travers Law, a boutique law firm specializing in real estate, wills and estates, and business law with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, and Milton, Ontario. He gave $100,000 to capitalize the award, which commemorates the spirit of his late father. The elder Travers “came out of the backwoods of the Gaspe coast in Quebec” after having attended just a one-room primary school. “Somehow, with just a grade six education, he was able to make his fortune in Montreal and never stopped stressing to me how lucky I was to have the opportunity to get an education,” says Travers.
After graduating from Queen’s Law and being called to the bar in 1974, he practised in a variety of areas of the law, including commercial and residential real estate, commercial and bank financing, franchising, corporate law, and wills and estates. In addition, Travers immersed himself in the life of his community. In 1979, he won election to the City of Kitchener Council and the Waterloo Regional Council from 1981 to 1989, serving as Chair of the Finance Committee of both bodies during most of his terms in office.
“I’m not sure my dad expected me to go to law school, but I was incredibly lucky that he was very generous and had the drive for education,” he says. “I know that many students aren’t that lucky, and so I hope to continue adding to the bursary in a significant way. Queen’s Law gave me a great future, and I now feel it’s my turn to give back through this bursary and contributions to future projects at the school.”
Shen well understands the emotions and desires that prompted Travers to establish his award, and she amply fulfills its criteria. The first of her family to attend law school, Shen has made the most of her three years at Queen’s. She completed an internship with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, served as a student caseworker with the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic, and involved herself in a variety of student initiatives. “I knew I wanted to devote my career to advocating alongside marginalized communities to improve equity.”
Finding the money to pay her tuition and met her living expenses while attending law school has been a challenge for Shen, and so benefitting from the Travers Award was a tremendous help to her both financially and emotionally. “Receiving it helped lessen my financial stressors and helped me finish law school to the same high standards that Queen’s Law has helped me to realize in myself,” says Shen, who is now articling at Koskie Minsky LLP in Toronto.
“I’m lucky to start my career at a firm that closely aligns with my career goals. Koskie Minsky focuses on progressive litigation, and I’m drawn to the field of class actions, which are an effective means of improving access to justice and holding institutions accountable. I’m also very interested in the areas of criminal and immigration Law.”
By Ken Cuthbertson, Law’83