Younger generations of the family

George Post: What has happened to the younger generation. I‘m sure that there are nieces and nephews; do they share these passionate interests in education and community improvement?

Well, I don’t know. My oldest brother has two sons and a daughter, and the one son as taken over the business, Mussallem Motors, so that’s where he’s put his energy. My brother Nick had a son, the one who was a judge, a brilliant mind, too brilliant to stay at anything. He was one of the Company of Young Canadians. And that really put him off. And he is so bright that he is always getting into trouble, even to this day. He is bright, bright, bright, bright.

Mary’s boys are very down to earth, one of them is an inspector of water or something in Vancouver, and of course Lil, my sister. I brought up Lyn (her daughter) and she is very special. And she is four months from completing her doctorate. She’s got through all this time, and she’s very good, she’s a wonderful personality.

George Post: In what field, Helen?

Well, what she is doing her doctoral work on is participatory evaluation. But then she is also one of Vancouver’s best belly dancers. Someone said ballet and I said “No, belly.” She decided when she was a youngster she wanted to do the belly dancing, and she has become quite well known for it. I think that’s quite an accomplishment.

George Post: Your mother might not approve?

She might not, I don’t know. But she was awfully good with children. I remember when I used to take Lyn home every weekend, when I was off Saturday and Sunday, and we’d stay overnight. And Lil loved it because she had a rest her. She was just full of mischief, and I spoiled her and I loved it.

George Post: But her doctorate is in political science? Psychology?

Psychology is the area that she is in, yes. And I keep trying to remember, when people ask me what she is doing it in, I have to think. I guess many of the ideas, they have to think of something new now, don’t they, the youngsters with their doctoral work. And she’s been at it for four years, and four months to go. I whizzed through in a year and a half. Well, altogether over the period, but well, they take their time, it’s more scholarly.  I said “Well what are you going to do, Lynn, when you are all finished this?” and she said, “I think I’ll go to Europe and see what’s going on over there.”

And she’s married, but they’re not having any children. They decided not to. But she’s a great gal. She’s been one of the greatest influences on my life. I had brought her up, you know, and watching her grow, I never lost contact with her. And as mother said, “That poor child, she doesn’t know which one is her mother.” We were very close, and still are very close. She’s a great gal.

George Post: Have you kept close touch with a lot of the students and younger nurses that you have yourself been a mentor to? Would you count yourself as having a large following of disciples or students?

(Laughing) Well, I communicate by letter and the gatherings and so on. You would know Ken Dye, the Auditor General, it’s just come to mind, his wife was one of my students. And there’s a whole group in Ottawa, and there are whole groups all over, and at Christmastime I hear from all over the world from students, they still keep in touch. Or they read something in the paper, or see something, and write to me. Soit’s not a planned program, but I do keep in touch with a lot of them. And especially in Vancouver, because that’s where most of them were when I was teaching, and most of my students have grown up, but there’s the odd one like the Dyes and so on that are here. Well, we have a VGA, Vancouver General Alumni, in Ottawa, and the last time there were about twenty that came. Oh, and I walked into the room and they all stood up. Gee it was funny. I just walked in. And they all stood up. (Laughing) That’s what they did in the old days, when anybody came in, and I guess they thought we were still back then. But they still get together, they are quite active here.

George Post: And you feel that you have inspired some of these women to continue the notion of change and improvement and dedication, that you’ve obviously felt in your life?

Well, that’s a hard one, because how do you know, George, if you’ve inspired anybody?

George Post: I guess they tell you.

Well, people tell me wonderful things, you’d think I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. But it’s not true. I get far too much credit for what other people have done too, because all the things that I have done have always been projects where other people were involved. Oh yes, I get far too much credit for the things that other people participated in.

George Post: I am coming to the end of the tape here, and I want to thank you for being so frank, and sharing so many stories here. It’s clear that you came from an amazing family.

Well, that’s very kind, George. I’ve enjoyed it too.

University of British Columbia Honorary Doctorate 1994

In 1994 Dr. H. K. Mussallem received an honorary doctorate from the University of British Columbia. She addressed a congregation of students from the Health Sciences.Honorary Doctorate, University of B.C., 1994

Honorary Doctorate, University of B.C., 1994

With family following Convocation, University of BC, 1994

Many members of Helen’s family attended the evening reception. Front row left to right: Her elder brother George Mussallem, Helen, and younger sister Lily Harper. Back row left to right: George’s wife Grace, Kevin Potvin (Janis’s partner), nieces Janis Harper and Lyn Harper, and brother Peter Mussallem.

Family gathering to celebrate Convocation, University of B.C., 1994

2005 Visit to the UBC School of Nursing

These photos are from the February 2005 visit Helen made to the UBC School of Nursing. She had coffee with the faculty and then met with a group of four undergraduate students who were heading to Ghana, and interested in international nursing.


In the hallway of the School, there is a large poster display of the history of the association between UBC and VGH Schools of Nursing. Helen is standing in front of the picture of her in her Directorial role in that poster.


McGill University 7th Honorary Doctorate

Bruce Finlayson:  On the 29th of May 2006, my wife Lyn, her Aunt Helen and I were in Montreal to attend the graduation ceremony at McGill University, where Helen was to receive her seventh honorary doctorate. Aunt Helen was very excited because she received her bachelor degree in nursing from McGill. We drove from Ottawa on a sunny spring day and arrived at the Sofitel in Montreal. We had adjoining rooms, one for Helen and one for Lyn and I.  The hotel was the height of luxury and only a few blocks from McGill. Lyn and I spent the afternoon looking for the perfect evening bag, for Helen to use at the McGill Club formal dinner for all the recipients of Honorary Doctorates.

A little help from friends.
A little help from friends.

The next day we were picked up at the hotel by a taxicab which took us to the university. Once we worked our way through security we were escorted into the building where the robing took place. Here we were met by a whole group of nursing faculty. From attending other events like this I was not surprised by how much these women clearly admired Helen. They gave us seats and refreshments while we waited for the others university officials to show up. The room was filled with racks of colourful robes and various dignitaries and administrators of the university.


Time came for Helen to get ready, and a number of her colleagues from the university helped her into her robes and hat. Then we all walked out into the foyer. Helen signed in the big book, under the watchful eye of the Chancellor, and then it was photo time. A number of pictures were taken of Helen and the other recipient (who it turned out was the head of the Human Genome project), accompanied by various Deans and dignitaries of McGill University. Soon it was nearly time for the ceremony itself to begin. Those of us who were Helen’s guests left the building to walk down the road to the field where an enormous white tent had been erected for the ceremony. As we went down the stairs we saw a piper preparing to march the graduates into the tent.

Helen with McGill Chancellor, President, and Deans
Helen with McGill Chancellor, President, and Deans 
Helen with niece Lyn and Bruce
Helen with niece Lyn and Bruce 

Once we arrived at the tent and showed our tickets to the attendant, we were ushered to the very front row of the audience. After a short time we could hear the pipes in the distance, and it wasn’t long before the dignitaries came marching into the tent led by the piper. Once they had all climbed up onto the stage and taken their seats the ceremony began. The Dean of Nursing of McGill University gave a glowing introduction and summation of Helen’s career and her contribution to nursing. The Chancellor of the university escorted Helen to the podium where he presented her with her honorary Doctorate.

Once all the pomp and ceremony was over we walk back up to the robing building, where we visited with Helen’s other guests and the nursing faculty members before participating in another photo opportunity.

With family and friends after the ceremony.
With family and friends after the ceremony.
With the McGill deans of health faculty and other recipients
With the McGill Chancellor, Deans, and the other recipient