Violet King Engaged Scholar Award

Violet King Engaged Scholar Award

A scholarship created to recognize the unique barriers, challenges, victories, and lived experiences of Black, racialized and Indigenous students at the University of Calgary

About The Violet King Engaged Scholar Award

The Violet King Engaged Scholar Award recognizes talented students with financial needs. Violet King was an exemplary student from a working-class background who paid for her education through loans and by teaching classical and jazz piano lessons. Her story exemplifies the reality of so many talented students who face barriers to and success within the university because of income limited access to scholarships, fellowships, and awards. This award recognizes and seeks to limit financial barriers that shape access and opportunity structures. It aims to facilitate access and embed equity, diversity, and inclusion in efforts to advance and enhance the student experience for those from historically underrepresented communities. The barriers to flourishing that are faced by Black, racialized, and Indigenous students informed the creation of the Award both to recognize talent and to enhance the affordability and accessibility of education for such students at the University of Calgary.

  • The Award recognizes and celebrates underrepresented students' talents, contributions and needs at the University of Calgary.
  • The Award recognizes the socioeconomic challenges underrepresented students face.
  • The Award contributes to efforts to level the playing field by financially supporting students to succeed at the university.

The SU, the OEDI and the university promote accessibility, equity, diversity, and inclusivity by offering various supports to members of equity-deserving groups.

Violet King in white ball gown (black and white image)

Violet King was a guest speaker at the Beta Sigma Phi pledge banquet in November 1955.

courtesy Glenbow Archives/NA-5600-7297a

About Violet King (1929-1982)

The Violet King Engaged Scholar Award is named after Violet King, Alberta’s and Canada’s first Black woman lawyer. King was an exemplar of an engaged scholar, as an inspired student leader in high school, on campus at the University of Alberta, where she completed a BA in History in 1952 and an LLB in 1953, becoming the first Black person in the province to graduate with a law degree. After articling with the Calgary law firm of Edward J. McCormick, Q.C., King was called to the Alberta Bar on June 2, 1954, becoming the first Black person in Alberta, and the first Black woman in Canada, to become a lawyer.

King was a trailblazer. She was born in Calgary on October 18, 1929 and raised in the Hillhurst-Sunnyside community. As a student leader, she was an exemplar of the academically, socially, and community-engaged scholar in high school, and this continued into her university studies. King’s trailblazing accomplishments and student engagement were widely recognized by Alberta newspapers when she was called to the Alberta Bar. In one editorial, “A Dauntless Young Woman,” The Albertan reported the following:

“History of a constructive kind was made in Calgary last week when Miss Violet King, a young colored woman, was admitted to the bar of this province. Miss King, a native of Calgary, had a brilliant record in the city schools and at the University of Alberta. She has always fitted one hundred percent into social, student and community affairs. She has, in fact, usually been a leader. In choosing a career, she wasn’t daunted by the scarcity of either people of her color or women of any race in the legal profession.

Her admission to the Alberta bar is a tribute to the profession, to her race, to her teachers and professors, to those who have sponsored and assisted her, to her parents—and of course, to herself.” (The Albertan, June 8, 1954).

People told me it wasn’t a good idea for a girl to be a lawyer, particularly a coloured girl, so I went ahead.

Violet King, May 5, 1956

Violet King served as the president of the Grade 12 Girls’ Association and was active in the Hi-Y club, an affiliate of the YWCA, which served as a network for future volunteer leaders at Crescent Heights School in the Hillhurst-Sunnyside community in Calgary. In 1946 and 1947, Violet King was named on the Hi-Y honour roll for her extracurricular volunteer activities. This student leadership and engagement continued at the University of Alberta, where the women students of her generation were encouraged by Maimie Simpson, the Dean of Women, to think of engagement and volunteerism as “a philosophy of living, where you give of yourself, where you can give the gift of appreciation.” (M. Simpson, Taking a Backward Look: Memoirs of a Dean of Women. Accession 69-55, U of Alberta Archives, 1968: 15).

At university, King was involved in numerous student groups, including the Blue Stocking Society, which included young women students who were interested in gender equality, history, and intellectual and public affairs.  Some of King’s student engagement activities included service on, for example:

  • Golden Key Society
  • Arts and Science Club (served as Secretary)
  • Class Historian (selected by peers, 1951-1952)
  • Vice President of Students Union
  • National Federation of Canadian University Students (NFCUS) (selected by SU)

International Student Services Conference (served as Alberta representative to meetings at McMaster in 1952)

  • Pembina House Committee
  • Students Union Building’s Housing Committee
  • Disciplinary Committee

In 1952 King was one of four student leaders who was recognized with an Executive “A” gold ring at Colour Night for her outstanding contributions to student life. The other three recipients to be honoured alongside King were Peter Lougheed, Ivan Head, and Garth Fryett  (“Colour Night Next Tuesday: Twelve to Receive Rings,” The Gateway (March 14, 1952: 1).


Violet King Scholarship

Required criteria

Student type: BIPOC student Citizenship/residency: Any Faculty: Any Year entering: 2nd, 3rd or 4th

graphic design of a wallet

Award value

$5,000 each Number of awards: Four (4)

Award information

Award information

Type of award: Scholarship Internal/external/government: Internal

The application period is now closed.

April 24, 2023 | 12:01 a.m. (MDT)


Jo-Anne Henry and UCalgary Law Dean Ian Holloway pose with the new portrait of Violet King Henry.

Jo-Anne Henry and UCalgary Law Dean Ian Holloway pose with the new portrait of Violet King Henry.

Adrian Shellard

Ground-breaking Calgarian earns permanent home at law school

By - Ali Abel, Faculty of Law | UToday


She has become a symbol of resiliency and determination for Black law students across Canada. She was the only woman in her graduating class at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law, the first Black person admitted to the Alberta Bar, and Canada’s first Black female lawyer. Violet King Henry was born and raised in Calgary, and while a student at Crescent Heights High School, declared that she would become a criminal lawyer.  

To honour her courage and her contributions to the community and the legal profession, and to continue to inspire all law students who see it, a portrait of King Henry was unveiled in UCalgary Law's largest classroom on Thursday, March 30.  

Portrait of Violet King Henry unveiled on March 30

Portrait of Violet King Henry unveiled on March 30, 2023 in the Faculty of Law

Jo-Anne Henry and Dr. Malinda Smith

Jo-Anne Henry and Dr. Malinda Smith

Ron Cornish

Canadian Football League Hall of Famer Jon Cornish is Canada's youngest university Chancellor

Interview with Ron Cornish, UCalgary | RON FANFAIR
March 2, 2023


In the next four years, he will chair the senate, sit on the Board of Governors and preside over degree-conferring ceremonies at convocation.

Black History Month

Looking to the past to build a more equitable and inclusive present during Black History Month

Author - Collene Ferguson, UCalgary | UToday
February 2, 2023


Lots to learn from the stories of struggle, courage and triumph of Black Canadians

Annie Saunders

Significance of Black History Month

Author - Dr. Malinda Smith, UCalgary | web

Significance of Black History Month

There is power in story and danger in the single story. That is why Black History Month is so important. We all need to understand the diversity and complexity of the Black historical experience here in Canada.

Heritage Calgary Plaque Recognizes Residence of Violet King

Heritage Calgary Plaque Recognizes Residence of Violet King

Author - Heritage Calgary
February 28, 2022

Heritage Calgary

The residence is nationally significant as the home of the King family, including siblings Violet King and Theodore King, who are recognized for their work to advance racial equality in Alberta and are a significant part of Alberta’s civil rights history.

Violet King

Edmonton's Federal Building public square named after a Black pioneer

Author - Katrine Deniset | ICI Alberta
February 27, 2021

ICI Alberta

From Calgary, Violet King was the first Black woman to practise law in the country.

King family

Plaza renamed to honour trailblazing Black Calgarian

Author - Helen Pike | CBC News
February 26, 2021

CBC News

The Federal Building plaza, with views of the Alberta Legislature, has a new name: the Violet King Henry Plaza.


Dr. Malinda Smith

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion are at the core of Dr. Malinda Smith's research

Interview with Dr. Malinda Smith, UCalgary | RON FANFAIR
October 29, 2020


As the first person of colour to serve on the executive of the Federation for the Humanities & Social Sciences, Smith – as Vice-President Equity – led ‘Equity Matters’ on the Ideas-Idees blog and worked to embed EDI in Congress programming.

George Bonga

Black Albertans You Should Know

Author - Dr. Malinda Smith, UCalgary | webpage

Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Trailblazing Black Albertans who, too often, are hidden in provincial and Canadian narratives. These stories, as the achievements of these Black Albertans, act as a corrective to misconceptions of Black Albertans as newcomers and the deficit narratives that function to limit Black aspirations and achievements.

Sophia B. Jones

Beyond a Single Story: Black Lives and Hidden Figures in the Canadian Academy

Author - Dr. Malinda Smith, UCalgary | Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
February 18, 2020

Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Three counter-narratives of trailblazing Black women who resolutely defied social barriers pushed back against the weight of stereotypes and pursued their higher education aspirations on the Indigenous territories that we now know as Canada. 

Virnetta Nelson

Making black history in Alberta visible

Author - UAlberta | Medium
February 8, 2017


The history of black people in Alberta remains obscured by the “tyranny of homogenization.”

SU Quality Money program

Quality Money is an excellent example of collaboration between your SU, the university, and the student body. The Quality Money proposal process allows the SU to determine where students feel money should be invested on campus. Furthermore, thanks to feedback and proposals received through the Quality Money program, the SU is better able to inform the university about the priorities and concerns of students. Your SU uses feedback from students in determining where to invest Quality Money each year.