From the time Catherine Thexton, (BSc/66, MEd/78) was old enough to look at and listen to nature, she’s been fascinated by the sights and sounds of wildlife.
“It’s really lovely to listen to,” says the 90-year-old Thexton, who spent 15 years recording birds, insects, frogs and other nature sounds on a farm in Manitoba’s Interlake Region.
Thexton began recording nature in 1973 after discovering the song of the red crossbill, a type of finch. “They’re so beautiful. I haven’t heard them since,” she laments. “There are so many people that have never heard them.”
Thexton’s desire to share her love of nature with others has led her to donate her collection of slides and journals to the University of Manitoba’s Archives & Special Collections, adding to recordings and materials she has previously donated.
“Students and other visitors to the libraries will benefit from Thexton’s detailed work, especially those studying natural sciences and those who’ve grown up in urban areas,” says Shelly Sweeney, Head of the University of Manitoba’s Archives & Special Collections. “Catherine’s gifts are a really wonderful resource.”
Besides her gift of materials, Thexton has established a generous endowment fund to give perpetual support to the university. Each year, the interest generated from the fund will be divided equally between the Faculty of Science and Archives & Special Collections.
“I wanted to give (the university) something,” she says. “I always thought the University of Manitoba was a wonderful place. I thought they gave people a chance.”
Thexton speaks from experience. After graduating from Balmoral High School in 1938 she earned a teacher’s certificate from the Provincial Normal School in Winnipeg, at that time Winnipeg’s training centre for teachers.
Thexton taught in rural schools for over six years during the Second World War. She married in 1943 and retired from teaching in December, 1945 when her husband returned to Canada from overseas duty.
When she resumed teaching in 1961 she noticed that most of her colleagues either held bachelor’s degrees or were working towards them. In her mid-forties, she decided to follow suit and enrolled at the University of Manitoba, finding that she enjoyed learning as an adult student.
After Thexton graduated with her bachelor of science in 1966, she began teaching biology at St. John’s High School. From 1977 to 1978, she also supervised the practicum for students in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba while she was completing her master’s degree in education.
When Thexton retired from teaching in 1978, she continued recording nature sounds, usually getting up before dawn to record. What started as a relaxing pastime grew into a passion to capture as many sounds as possible. Thexton counts western meadowlarks, chickadees and owls among her favourites, but she recorded everything she heard.
Thexton’s late husband also loved nature, and would drive the car for her as she recorded out the window. In this way she managed to capture the sounds of sharp-tailed grouse on their dancing grounds.
Thexton is pleased that others will be able to take in the sounds of nature that she loves so much.