Through the generosity of family, friends, and classmates of Richard McDonald ’63, 13 Cathedral students studying French were able to travel to Quebec for a guided learning experience.
Thirteen students who study French at Cathedral 7-12 High School recently returned from an international learning experience to Québec City. The inaugural Richard McDonald Signature Experience Abroad, named in memory of a beloved class of 1963 alumnus, was made possible by the generosity of his family, friends, and fellow alumni.
The long-distance field trip was timed to coincide with the Québec winter festival, Carnivale, one of the largest winter festivals in the world with a history dating back to the late 1800s. Students had the opportunity to practice speaking French in every day interactions and experience the local culture, history, and food.
At the Museum of Civilization (Musée de la civilisation à Québec), Cathedral scholars learned local history touring the exhibit “People of Québec Then and Now.” The historical experiences continued with a traditional 17th century meal, dancing, a taffy pull, and making their own maple butter. The Cathedral group toured the city, including Parliament of Quebec, the Place-Royale historic district and cradle of French civilization in North America, and the Plains of Abraham — the site of a pivotal battle in the Seven Years’ War.
“The aspect of the trip that had the most impact on the students was taking a tour of Québec,” explained Jonathan Ray, French teacher at Cathedral who led the trip. “The students could finally see the history behind where they were and why it was French speaking. The students took notes during this time and were able to retell many of the facts relating to it after we had finished.”
One of the highlights of the trip for students was going dog sledding, a historically significant form of transportation in parts of Canada and the arctic, through a local maple grove.
“Each of the students returned having enriched his or her understanding of French and having had a greater experience of the culture,” said Jonathan Ray. “Without the wonderful gift of being able to do this trip, these hard-working students would not have had the capacity to see their effort rewarded in a French-speaking setting.”
The Richard McDonald Signature Experience Abroad was created to honor the memory of Richard McDonald ’63 who was an avid traveler and loved to immerse himself in other cultures. After his graduation, Richard remained very involved in Cathedral High School, most recently helping establish scholarships for students.
Richard’s widow, Donna McDonald ’63 and classmates Jane Ryan Wessen ’63 and Nelia Costello ’63, spearheaded the idea for this project. “My heart is full, my eyes moist with tears to know that these students have been touched by an adventure that they will always carry with them,” said Jane Wessen about this year’s first trip abroad. Donna McDonald added, “I am extremely pleased and gratified,” and that she knows this experience will bear fruit down the road for the Cathedral scholars who participated. They aim to continue supporting learning experiences abroad next year and beyond with the help of fellow alumni and friends.