When Morgan Bates traded her figure skates for hockey skates, there was no turning back.
Bates would have started playing hockey earlier in life, but until she was 12 years old there wasn’t a league for girls in Thamesford, Ontario, her hometown of 8,000 people. “I started playing much later than most people,” says the second-year Laurier kinesiology student. But Bates’ dedication to the sport (she spent hours practicing at the arena) enabled her to catch up to players who had been playing since they were four.
Today, she is the assistant captain of the Golden Hawks women’s hockey team.
Bates is also the 2016-2017 recipient of the Don and Lillian Honey Memorial Athletic Bursary, an award presented to varsity athletes who demonstrate leadership skills and team sportsmanship. Since the award’s inception in 2006, 37 students have benefited from the generosity of the late Don Honey, a Laurier alumnus (BA '53) who created the bursary to honour the memory of his late wife Lillian, who was also a Laurier graduate (BA '52).
Bates says the bursary is a motivating reminder that alumni and community members recognize how much time and dedication varsity athletes put into their sport and studies. “Growing up and training to get to the level where I’m at today, it doesn’t leave much time for a part-time job to save money for school,” she says. Bates shoulders the financial responsibility for her schooling, so winning an award is a boon for her. If not for the bursary, she may not have been able to play hockey. “It means a lot that there are people out there who set aside money for student athletes,” she says.
As assistant captain for Laurier’s women’s hockey team, Bates acts as a mentor to first-year students making the transition from high school to university. “I try to be a role model for how to be successful in university and athletics at the same time,” she says. “I’m trying to be the best example for my teammates and school.”
Bates juggles a full five-class workload with 6 a.m. practices and multiple games every weekend. Many bus rides to games are spent studying and completing assignments. She even helps co-ordinate homework sessions in hotel rooms when the team is playing away games. A quote the Golden Hawks adopted as their playoff motto last year sticks out for Bates. The phrase “earned and never given” hung in the team’s dressing room and it was something she reflected on each time she laced up her skates. “It really represents what being a student athlete is all about,” Bates says. “You aren’t given marks and you aren’t given a spot on the team. We work hard for everything.”
When he was 85, Don Honey asked his family if they’d take him water skiing at the cottage. “I laughed and had to tell him I didn’t think it was such a good idea,” says his step-daughter, Alison King, who did concede he could go tubing with the grandchildren as an alternative.
Honey, who graduated from Laurier in 1953 when the school was known as Waterloo College, had a lifelong love of athletics and physical fitness. During his university years, he was a member of the curling and rugby teams and served as treasurer for the athletic directorate. Honey’s first wife, Lillian, a Laurier alumnus, shared his passion for athletics and worked as a phys-ed teacher. She was captain of the basketball team, played volleyball and badminton and was also a cheerleader. Lillian passed away in 1993 and Don established the athletic bursary in both of their names in 2006.
Honey made lifelong friends at Laurier, friends he connected with at the Founders’ and Golden Anniversary Club Luncheon, a celebration for those who graduated from the university up to 1967. “His very best friends in life came from Laurier,” King says. Honey passed away in October at the age of 88. Before his death, he made an additional legacy gift to Laurier. King says she has been inspired by her step-father’s generosity, but also the thoughtfulness of his charity. “He really wanted to give back to those institutions that he felt played an important part in his life and the life of his loved ones,” she says.
King believes Honey was inspired by his own father, one of the first dentists to travel to Canada’s north and provide free dental care in First Nations communities. “I think Don was affected by that and his father’s work certainly impacted his thoughts about giving back,” she says.
King says it is fitting that Honey chose to support athletic programs at Laurier. “Being fit and healthy was at the core of who he was,” she says. “Even in his 80s, he’d think nothing of putting on his shoes and going for a 10-kilometre hike with the family.”
Today, Honey’s gift is helping athletes like Bates succeed at Laurier.