Miss Barbara Whitley (front row, centre) was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award on June 10 for her nearly 60 years of tireless dedication towards improving patient care at the Montreal General Hospital as a past president of the Auxiliary and a long-time volunteer.

MUHC Legacy Year: Celebrating Barbara Whitley

Dedicated. Indomitable. A pioneer. And someone with a great sense of humour but who always let you know where she stood on an issue.

Those are just a few ways to describe Miss Barbara Whitley, who devoted her time and boundless energy to the Montreal General Hospital and numerous other organizations throughout Montreal for the past 60 years.

On June 10, Miss Whitley was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her remarkable accomplishments as a member of the Auxiliary – having served as its fourth president starting in 1957 – and as a long-time volunteer.

The award was presented at the Atwater Club during a special luncheon, which also celebrated the role of all volunteers. This event was organized by the MGH Legacy Committee, and is part of the overall MUHC Legacy Year, which is paying tribute to the rich history of the founding hospitals and culminating on June 20, 2015 with the official inauguration of the new Glen site.

The highlight of the afternoon was when Miss Whitley delivered her own speech and had the room howling with laughter as she recounted memories and humorous anecdotes about her time with the Auxiliary.

In fact the moment was a throwback to her early time as an actor when she performed monologues with the McGill Red and White Revue. She was once noticed by Stephen Leacock, a McGill professor at the time, which led to several performances on the CBC.

“Miss Whitley’s volunteer efforts have become legendary,” said Yvonne Mass, current president of the Montreal General Hospital Auxiliary. “She’s a shining light and inspiration to new generations of volunteers who are following in her footsteps, and she has shown that becoming involved in your community is a truly rewarding experience and one that can continue throughout a lifetime.”

Some of Barbara Whitley’s accomplishments:

  • Grew the Auxiliary’s membership to 2,000+ members.
  • Created the Colonel Fleming memorial fund, which grew larger while under the jurisdiction of the Auxiliary. It is now overseen by the MGH Foundation and continues to enhance healthcare services at the hospital.
  • Became the first woman to be invited to sit on what had previously been a male-only Montreal General Hospital Board of Management.
  • Established the Whitearn Foundation in memory of her father.
  • Earned her Bachelor of Arts in 1940 from McGill, and in 1992 received an Honorary Doctor of Literature from the university.
  • Presented with the Caring Canadian Award in 2004 by the Governor General for her six decades of volunteerism.
  • Awarded the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 for her outstanding contribution to the community.

“Any organization that can count an individual like Miss Whitley among its supporters and volunteers is a fortunate one indeed,” said Ann Lynch, associate director general, clinical operations, adult missions. “We are very grateful for Miss Whitley’s longstanding commitment to improving patient care at the Montreal General Hospital and are proud to honour that contribution with this very well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award.”

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