The Geography of Giving

13 Mar 2019

Update, December 2023:

Since we wrote the story below, Bob and Peggy made the decision to renew their support as Champions of the Wild. Thanks to all our Champions, who commit to multi-year pledges of unrestricted support, the Nature Trust is able to plan ahead and act more strategically. Bob and Peggy have also become Property Guardians, volunteering to care for one of our Nature Trust conservation lands.

While their support for the Nature Trust is unwavering, they have made big changes in other parts of their lives.

Peggy and Bob McCalla at a Champions of the Wild field trip in 2023. Photo credit Jacques Giard.

In October 2019, Bob and Peggy found a  house in Mahone Bay. Although leaving Halifax was a huge step, they are delighted to have “immersed ourselves in this wonderful community,” says Bob. They both volunteer with many community groups including the Mahone Bay Community Centre and Peggy’s own project, “Caring through Sharing,” which helps people stay in their homes as they age. Bob also sings with the South Shore Chorale, but has continued his involvement with Nova Voce, the provincial men’s choir. Peggy adds that they have renewed their support for the Saint Mary’s Geography Department; the fund named for them helps students participate in field trips. Peggy is inspired to bring the students out on field trips into the areas around Mahone Bay, among other places.

Bob continues, “When you live in a small town like this, access to the countryside is just so easy. There are trails here, five minutes away from our house, and on our bikes we can get all the way to Lunenburg or to Chester.”

“If you put my 75 years with Bob’s 75 years, that’s 150 years of a lot of living,” says Peggy. “There’s so much bad news out there, I wish we could stir up more good news. The Nature Trust does that, it helps people get out in the wild. People don’t have to do anything [out in nature], they just have to be there and it helps them feel better.”

“The whole concept of the Champions of the Wild is that it’s an opportunity for people who have the funds and the inclination to contribute to the future of living here in Nova Scotia,” Bob says. “Given the fact that most of the land in the province is privately owned, it really behooves the people who own that land to consider putting it into the hands of a conservation group so that others can use it.”

Thank you to Bob and Peggy for your continued support.


by Andrew Robinson

Bob and Peggy McCalla have called Halifax home for well over half their lives. “We are both originally from Ontario,” explained Bob, “And we’ve lived across Canada and overseas. We hadn’t even visited Halifax when I got a job offer from Saint Mary’s University, and we packed up and shipped across the country. That was over 40 years ago, so I guess we must like it here!”

Bob and Peggy McCalla

Bob and Peggy met when both were Geography under-grads at the University of Western Ontario. “I’ve never really thought too much about it, says Bob, “But I suppose our choice of university subject ultimately influenced our decision to support the Nature Trust. If we’d been Sociology students, maybe things would be very different today.”

That decision to study geography took root for both much earlier, and their love of the outdoors came from similar roots – albeit quite different in origin.

“My family had property on Lake Simcoe.” Peggy explained. “We spent all summer, and many fall and winter weekends up there. I loved the outdoors – swimming, camping, hiking and winter sports. I think that was where my passion grew and it has been with me ever since. I was able to continue my passion as a Guide and leader for many years.”

“And we camped out of necessity,” laughed Bob. “It was a cheaper option than other accommodations.”

Bob continued, “Actually it was Peggy who got me hooked on the outdoors and the natural world. When we got together, I realized how much she loved being outdoors and so I picked it up to be with her – and now it is such an integral part of life.’

This shared passion has led to a life of wonderful memories. “As a student, I worked for the Ontario Department of Tourism,” said Bob. “We had to inventory all the tourist accommodation in the province – and there was no internet to help back then! I was based in Kenora in northwest Ontario. We would hitch rides with Lands and Forests. On one flight the wind direction meant the pilot had to land on the short side of a lake. We came in so low over the trees I could almost touch them – and then we just dropped onto the water!”

And the memories are still being made. “When I retired after almost 40 years as a professor at Saint Mary’s, I didn’t want to be anywhere near the school in September,” said Bob, “So we decided to take a road trip to Alaska. We were away for 49 days and we camped for probably half that time. The highlight of that trip was flying in a light aircraft over the Yukon towards Mt. Logan. And here’s what we’ve been doing this year,” he said, pointing to ‘Waterfalls of Nova Scotia’, by Benoit Lalonde. “We’ve done four or five waterfall hikes this winter. Pretty tricky in this weather, I can tell you!” he laughed.

Bob and Peggy are passionate outdoor enthusiasts, regularly canoeing and camping across the province. “We canoe probably three or four times a month,” said Peggy. “We were out to the 100 Wild Islands, and last summer we canoed and camped in Kejimkujik.”

Photo: Pileated Woodpecker by Brittany Crossman

Bob explained how they discovered the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. “It would be about 8 or so years ago. The Academic VP at Saint Mary’s called me one day, said he had a spare ticket for the Nature Trust Annual Dinner and did I want to go? I knew little of the Nature Trust, but I went along. I heard about the wonderful things they were doing and I was really impressed. We started to donate a few times a year and things grew from there. Then, a few years ago we were invited to an Estate Planning seminar hosted by the Nature Trust, delivered by Glenn Stewardson of Assante Wealth Management. He showed us how we could use giving strategies to take advantage of capital gains reductions – very eye opening. We were able to set up a trust fund with the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia, which gives us flexibility of how and when to use our donations whilst maximizing the tax advantages.”

“Most people choose to give for their own reasons,” said Bob. “It really doesn’t matter why you give, it just matters that you choose to support that which you love.”

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