Where are They Now

Gaston Lacombe (1995)

Gaston Lacombe portrait

Since receiving the highly appreciated and greatly needed support from the O’Brien Foundation in 1995, I haven't been keeping still much. At that time I was a post-graduate student in Eastern European studies. It was right after the fall of the Soviet Union, a very exciting time. During my O'Brien interview, I remember saying something like: "It's not about what my studies can bring to New Brunswick, it's more about what New Brunswick can bring to that region of the world." So, following this line of thinking, I moved to Eastern Europe in 1997, to Latvia, and stayed there until... 2008.

I didn’t complete my PhD from the University of Toronto.  Instead, I plunged fully and deeply into the post-Soviet society of Eastern Europe, and decided to become a participant in the growth and reforms, instead of just an observer. Since at the time everything in that society was extremely fluid, I ended up working many different jobs, often 2 or 3 at once. I was a high-school teacher, of French, English, Geography and History, for 4 years. I was a defense consultant for a while, hired by the Canadian Ministry of Defense to assist Latvia's effort at NATO integration.  I did some radio reporting for Radio Free Europe.  I was hired by the US Embassy in Latvia to run their higher-education programs, the equivalent of a Fulbright Commission, something I did for 8 years. I created and led a foundation, a bit like the O'Brien Foundation, that did fund-raising and provided scholarships to students from Latvia studying abroad.  During that time I was also one of the founders and the first chairman of the first ever Latvian National LGBT Association. Then finally I was hired by the Canadian Embassy to the Baltic States to be the Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy Officer for Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. But in 2008, my spouse (who is American) and I, felt the need to return to North America, to return to roots and family. So we moved to Washington DC.

Now back in North America, all of my European experience counted for nothing on the US job market, especially as the economy collapsed, and I was a Canadian without a Green Card. So I returned to university, and got a new degree. This time it was a degree in photography, from Boston University (Washington DC Campus). A whole new, unexpected chapter of my life started.

Dr. Sherry L. Beaumont (1989)

Sherry-Beaumont-2003Dr. Sherry L. Beaumont received funding from the O’Brien Foundation to complete graduate studies at the University of Waterloo, where she was granted a Ph.D. in Psychology in 1993. She is currently a Full Professor at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) where she teaches and conducts research in the areas of positive psychology and lifespan development. She has held research grants, published, and supervised many graduate students in the areas of self-identity and emotional well-being across the lifespan.     Most recently, her research has investigated the role of self-identity for the development of wisdom, spirituality, and life meaning. Her research articles have been published in scholarly journals, such as Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research and the Journal of Adult Development, and have been featured in media sources, such as the University of Chicago’s “Defining Wisdom Research Network.” Most recently, Dr. Beaumont is in the process of developing an intervention for positive identity development during emerging adulthood that focuses on the benefits of self-expression using verbal and visual imagery. This research will incorporate her recent training in art therapy. For more information, see http://web.unbc.ca/~beaumont/.

Dr. Lucy A. Wilson (1985)


Wilson, Lucy Ann, Campbellton, New Brunswick: Doctoral Studies in Archaeology and Geology, University of Paris.

I received my fellowship in 1985. I was then entering the final year of my doctorate at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI) in France; I finished there in mid-1986 and came home soon afterwards. Now I am full Professor of Geology, in the Department of Biology at UNBSJ. I am the only geologist on this campus (which is why I’m in the Biology department – have to be ‘housed’ somewhere!), so I am responsible for all geology teaching here. I offer the full first-year course every year, and also like to add on a second course of some sort every winter, to add variety to my life and scope for the interested students to do more geology. Geology majors have to go to Fredericton after first year, however. This year I am teaching “Introduction to Geoarchaeology”, since my research is in fact geoarchaeological. I use geological techniques to answer archaeological questions, in particular concerning the rocks used to make prehistoric stone tools, and still mainly work on French sites.

Dr. Thomas A. Clair (1987)

dr-Tom-ClairIn May 2013, I began a new job as Lead Scientist with the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association in Fort McMurray, Alberta.  WBEA is the non-governmental agency responsible for environmental monitoring in the Alberta Oil Sands Region, providing independent information on air and water quality to regulators, the public and industry.  I moved to WBEA and Fort McMurray after a 40 year environmental research career of which 34 was with Environment Canada in the Atlantic Region. In my new job, I am responsible for overseeing a wide variety of scientific programs which are designed to ensure that the best possible environmental information is gathered and made available to governments and the public as quickly as possible.

The move to the oil sands and Fort McMurray came as a big surprise to me.  I had just retired from Environment Canada where I spent my career trying to understand the interaction between air pollutants especially acid rain, mercury, reactive nitrogen and aquatic ecosystems. I had published over 80 papers in the refereed scientific literature and an equal number of technical reports and policy documents.  I had also led Canada-US research groups on mercury and acid rain modeling and was Environment Canada’s representative on the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Europe’s Working Group on Effects of Air Pollutants, as well as its Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen.

The offer of the job in Alberta came on my last work day with EC and despite the need to relocate to cold Fort McMurray, the opportunity to play a part in helping monitor the environment in one of the biggest industrial developments in North America was too good to pass up.  My wife, having also just retired as a professor of Mathematics at Mount Allison, decided that we should make an adventure of this opportunity and here we are for a few years.  The job comes with a great deal of responsibility because of the global interest in the development and my appointment was even recorded in the Wall Street Journal!  None of this interesting work and life trajectory would have been possible without the O’Brien Foundation.  I drink a toast to the people who made it possible at least once a week.