The Leonard and Kathleen O'Brien Humanitarian Trust was established in 1971 to provide postgraduate fellowships for current or former residents of the Province of New Brunswick who are pursuing advanced (postgraduate level) study or research in any academic, artistic, or professional field at any recognized university or research establishment. The fellowships are administered by a Committee known as The O'Brien Foundation.
The Honourable J. Leonard O'Brien was a life-long resident of Nelson-Miramichi who made distinguished contributions to the forest industry and the public service of New Brunswick. Mr. O'Brien was a lumber merchant, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, 1925-1930, Member of Parliament 1940-45, and Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, 1958-65.
Kathleen (O'Leary) O'Brien was born in Richibucto and attended Mount Saint Vincent's College in Halifax before graduating in Nursing from the Roosevelt Hospital School in New York. Her extensive charitable work was recognized by Pope Paul VI in 1963 when Mrs. O'Brien was made a Dame of Magistral Grace of the Order of Malta. She died in 1971 and Mr. O'Brien in 1973.
As a final memorial to himself and his wife, Mr. O'Brien made two bequests which reflect their deep concern for the natural resources of New Brunswick and for the education of its people.
- The first bequest was the grant of Beaubear's Island to the Crown as a national Historic Park to be preserved "in its primeval state where citizens of New Brunswick and others may relax and enjoy peace, quiet and solitude in the place where the first settlers sought the same."
- The second bequest provided for the establishment of the O'Brien Foundation to grant fellowships to students, scholars, and artists wishing to pursue postgraduate study and research.
O'Brien Foundation fellowships are not based on financial need and are awarded through an annual competitive process. In its 44 years of operation from 1975 to 2019, the Foundation received 2,426 applications and granted 343 fellowships. Eight of the top awards to date were presented by the O’Brien Foundation Alumni. The total value of awards granted in these years was 1,777,000.00.
The O'Brien Foundation is a humanitarian trust, operated exclusively for educational purposes.
- Donations are welcome from any persons or organizations wishing to assist promising students and artists to develop their knowledge and skills through advanced study.
- Donations to the O'Brien Foundation qualify for tax-exempt receipts.