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  • Writer's pictureAlumni Office

Dr. Harris L. Barton '70 Scholarship

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

A scholarship has been established in the name of Dr. Harris L. Barton ‘70. This award honours the life of Dr. Barton, an openly gay African Nova Scotian community leader, doctor, and Grammar alumnus. Born in 1952, he was the first indigenous African Nova Scotian to obtain a medical degree (MD).

This scholarship is for black students attending Saint Mary’s University who self-identify as part of the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum and illustrate a commitment to community service. It is fully funded annually by Saint Mary’s University Social Justice and Community Studies Assistant Professor, Dr. Rachel B. Zellars. Rachel is also a current Grammar Parent to Ade ‘24 and Zora ‘26 Daramola. It was celebrated by a virtual launch and information session on April 22, hosted by the Halifax Public Libraries in partnership with the Health Association for African Canadians.

After graduating from Grammar, Dr. Barton then attended Dalhousie University. His educational journey was a feat in itself, given the systemic racism that has plagued educational opportunities for African Nova Scotian students for centuries. He was accepted to Dalhousie Medical School and graduated in 1978 with Honors. Afterward, he specialized in Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa and was accepted into the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons in 1981. Following his residency, Dr. Barton established a private psychiatric practice in Ottawa, where he lived until his passing on June 18, 2010.

As a gay Black man, Dr. Barton stood tall as he challenged the social norms of his time, including racism and homophobia. His sister Valerie recalls, “Harris stood proud in who he was as a gay black man at a time when many did not understand, but he refused to feel diminished for who he was. He always carried himself proudly, a trait I greatly admired in him."

This scholarship offers a space that fosters pride, visibility, and belonging amongst LGBTQIA2S+ African Nova Scotians and Black students and their families. Additionally, the award bolsters and nurtures a community of support, belonging and care for Black LGBTQIA2S+ students who often face similar, patterned challenges living as openly queer within our communities. The Dr. Harris L. Barton Scholarship aims to shine a mirror of representation, recognition, kinship and loving support towards student awardees.

We thank Dr. Rachel B. Zellars for recognizing Dr. Harris L. Barton’s incredible accomplishments, his fight to succeed as a gay black doctor, and for providing opportunities to other black youth in our community. The scholarship is a remarkable way to celebrate his life and support those like him.

For more information on the Dr. Harris L. Barton Scholarship, including donation opportunities, please contact Dr. Rachel Zellars at The application form may be found here.

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