The Philanthropist “one Hale of a story”

Photo: Normand Brassard
A philanthropist, according to the Oxford English Dictionary,  is “a person who seeks to promote the welfare of others.” The Philanthropist, a multimedia presentation based on the life and work of acclaimed Quebec City philanthropist Jeffery Hale, is a fitting tale to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Jeffery Hale Hospital.
The multimedia presentation tells the little-known life story of Jeffery Hale, a philanthropist in every sense of the word. The mélange of sound effects, visual effects and live performances brings history to life, weaving the audience through various locations, following the journey of Jeffery Hale and his ancestors. It is an inspiring and important piece of artistic history. 

The show, a multimedia presentation written by Michael Boden, is the inaugural performance held in the new St. Lawrence College amphitheatre. Before the curtain rose, Jeffery Hale Foundation president Bryan O’Gallagher congratulated all involved in the performance and in the construction of the theatre. “It is quite fitting that tonight’s event is entitled The Philanthropist,” O’Gallagher said. “Our foundation bears Jeffery Hale’s name and we hope that by making contributions such as the one that made the amphitheatre dream a reality, we walk in his footsteps through philanthropy.” 

Mark Lepitre plays the role of Edward Hale, Jeffery Hale’s older brother, and narrates much of the action. From his narration, we learn that Jeffery Hale was born in Quebec City in 1803.  One of nine children, he was educated in England along with his brother Edward. He then served in the Royal Navy, following in the footsteps of his ancestors.

One of the most touching parts of this story is when the performers read and react to hand-written letters, a significant form of communication during this era. These rare and true glimpses illustrate Quebec society as it was two centuries ago. Two hundred years from now, how will historians access our own password-protected correspondence? 

Through letters written by Jeffery Hale and sent to his mother, we witness the beginnings of his humanitarian legacy.

In these letters, he confidently expresses his opinions, many of which would have been radical for the time. He criticizes the treatment of the Irish Catholics by the English. He shows contempt for the slave trade, calling it an “abomination,” and he chillingly ponders the notion that war is only a form of “legalized murder.” After the death of his mother, Hale left the Navy to return to Quebec and devoted much of his life to charitable work. Today he is best known in Quebec for founding the Jeffery Hale Hospital, but he also established Mount Hermon Cemetery and several schools.  

Every ticket sold during the show’s run, from August 24 to August 27, continued Hale’s philanthropic legacy; the Citadel Foundation matched ticket purchases with donations to the Mark MacKenzie Jackson Memorial Fund, a suicide prevention program in our community, in memory of the late Alexander Huard, a young actor in the multimedia performance, who took his own life earlier this year. 
Photo by Normand Brassard 
Actors perform the story of philanthropist Jeffery Hale, on the new St. Lawrence College amphitheatre stage.  Photo by Normand Brassard