Camosun is ‘all in the family’ for nursing instructor Mary Willbond

Camosun College has been a family affair for Nursing instructor Mary Willbond, her sisters, her mom, her sons and her extended family for more than 50 years – a century in fact.

Mary teaches first-year in Camosun’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. She graduated from the college in 1992 with an Associate of Arts in Nursing and went on to finish her BSN at UVic and MSN at UBC. She’s been teaching in Camosun’s Nursing program for over 20 years.

Mary says she and her sisters were drawn to Camosun because they used to hang out on campus as kids while their mom, Lynne Willbond, took the Business Administration and Office Administration programs in the 1980s and the Registered Nursing (RN) program in 1998. Mary’s grandparents, James Nimmo and Mary Easton, even attended teacher’s college at the Provincial Normal School in the Young Building in the early 1920s.

All of her sisters Paula Littlejohn, Dr. Bridget Stirling, and Sandra Bast graduated from Camosun and teach at the college as well.

Sisters: Sandra Bast and Paula Littlejohn sitting; Mary Willbond and Bridget Stirling standing.

Paula Littlejohn, Mary’s twin, is also a Registered Nurse (RN) teaching in School of Health and Human Services since 1997. In 2010, Paula won a Camosun Celebrates Award of Excellence for the “Students Choice of Best Teacher.” Following in the family tradition, Paula’s daughter Shaelyn just completed her time at Camosun in the BSN program and is now finishing third year at UVic.

Dr. Bridget Stirling has taught in the Camosun’s Health Care Assistant and Licensed Practical Nursing programs as well as in the BSN program in the past and currently, she’s teaching in the Education Assistant and Community Support program as a sessional instructor. Dr. Stirling won Camosun’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2005.

Sandra Bast graduated from Camosun’s Hospital Unit Clerk program in the early 2000’s. She’s now an instructor in the School of Business Unit Clerk program, where she’s been teaching for several years.  

Why does Mary and her family feel so connected to Camosun? “Camosun is so welcoming and accepting,” she says. “I’m very proud we have that community feel, with smaller classrooms and a focus on accessibility. I also really appreciate the college’s Indigenous education initiatives. It’s important to honour those who came before us and the land on which we live and learn.”

“I also appreciate our English as a Second Language (ESL) programs,” she says. “The students who come through ESL and into the Nursing program all talk about how welcoming the college has been. We are not only changing lives in our community, but internationally too.”

When asked what the future holds, Mary says all of her sons will graduate from Camosun as well. “One of my sons graduates from the Criminal Justice program in 2022. Two others will attend Camosun in the next four years. One wants to be a teacher and the other a veterinarian. They have decided to start with the University Transfer program.”

“In looking ahead as a college, I think our future looks bright,” she says. “Our Camosun/UVic BSN students received the highest marks in Canada last year on their RN exams. We must be doing something right!”

“As far as the pandemic goes, it has been challenging but our Nursing students have adapted,” she adds. “The fact that these students have come into a program during the COVID crisis means they are willing to be out there on the front lines, where they’re going to have to put on PPE and face challenging circumstances. They also carried out a lot of phone interviews with clients this term. This will make them more comfortable with Telehealth in the future.”

“Camosun has always been at the forefront of accessibility, applied learning and community,” says Mary. “The college, like our Nursing program, has held fast on these founding values and principles, and I’m really proud to be part of it!”

Camosun, located in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia with campuses on the Traditional Territories of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples, is one of the largest colleges in the province.  Established in 1971, Camosun now celebrates 50 years of delivering innovative, life-changing academic and applied programs to 20,000 students annually.

Featured image photo credit: Times Colonist, 1994.

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