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Shannon Gray Memorial Award for Nurses honours legacy of compassion

September 3, 2021

A new award celebrating the life and legacy of Red River College alumna Shannon Gray will recognize nursing students who demonstrate a passion for helping others.

Gray graduated from the Bachelor of Nursing program in 2016 and looked forward to a promising career as a Registered Nurse. She passed away from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma two

years later at the age of 28, before she had the opportunity to fulfil her dream of becoming a working RN.

The award was established by her husband, Aaron Trachtenberg, as a way to celebrate her legacy and to provide support to other young nurses in her honour.

“Shannon believed the right way to live your life is to dedicate it to helping others,” he says. “She loved nursing because of the direct connection it gave to those she was caring for.”

The award, worth $1,000 or more annually, will be presented each fall to a student graduating from the Bachelor of Nursing program who has successfully completed a senior practicum in a paediatric or oncology setting. Preference will be given to applicants who express an interest in paediatric oncology.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of Shannon’s family and friends, who are providing an incredible opportunity for nursing students to achieve their dreams. Many members of our faculty and staff had the chance to meet and work with Shannon while she was a student, and we’re proud her legacy will have an impact on other hard-working, dedicated nurses,” says Debbie O’Donnell Weigelt, Dean of Health Sciences and Community Services at RRC.

Trachtenberg says that while the award recognizes academic achievement, it is also meant to celebrate and encourage the qualities of caring, compassion, and collegiality for which Gray was known.

“That last one – helping and supporting those you work with – is so important because how you treat your colleagues shapes your working environment and, ultimately, the quality of care you provide.”

Trachtenberg, a doctor, says working in a hospital over this past year has opened his eyes to the enormous challenges nurses faces as they strive to deliver an uncompromising level of care to those they serve.

“I often see RRC nursing students hard at work on their clinical rotations, and I want to encourage them to maintain their caring and compassion, and willingness to help each other as much as possible.”

Gray graduated with distinction and received the Nursing Legacy Award for outstanding clinical performance. Although she never had a chance to work as an RN, she did get her license, passing her NCLEX exam in the minimum number of questions required.

She also completed a senior practicum in paediatric oncology, a challenging field she found immensely rewarding – to the surprise of absolutely no one who knew her, say friends and family. “There was a mutual joy between Shannon and any child she engaged with.”

Gray’s classmates remember her relentless work ethic, willingness to help others, and natural ability to make those around her feel valued.

In a tribute to Gray, one classmate who witnessed her compassion and superior clinical reasoning skills in class described her as “the perfect balance of the art and science of nursing practice.”

“The As she achieved on many assignments were not only due to her knowing the ‘right answer,’ but because she paired the correct answers with humanity,” added one of her instructors in another tribute. “Nursing has lost a huge potential in the care Shannon will never give to her patients.”

Trachtenberg wants Gray to be remembered not only as a great nursing student, but as an incredible person.

“Everyone she met immediately felt comfortable around her. She loved kids and animals, and could beat me at any sport.”

Applications for the Shannon Gray Memorial Award for Nurses will be available from the Nursing Repository, and will be accepted throughout the year. Applications should be accompanied by two reference letters – one from a preceptor, one from a faculty member – along with a short write-up about the candidate’s future goals in their area of interest.



Your gift has double the impact. For a limited time, all gifts made towards the Shannon Gray Legacy Award will be matched (up to $25,000) by Shannon’s husband Aaron Trachtenberg. Please donate today to help support the future generation of hard-working, compassionate nurses in Manitoba.

You can contribute to the Shannon Gray Legacy Award Fund and strengthen the impact of her legacy by donating in the following ways:

  • Online (please designate your gift in memory of Shannon Gray)
  • Over the phone by calling 204-619-0139
  • By mail: Red River College Development Office

C306-2055 Notre Dame Ave.
Winnipeg, MB R3H 0J9



Shannon Gray memorial award for Nurses

Shannon Gray (1989-2018) was an accomplished graduate of Red River College’s Bachelor of Nursing program, who had a promising career ahead of her as a Registered Nurse. She was a bright light, and lived life with courage and exuberance while practicing gentleness and kindness in each interaction. It was her dream to become a pediatric nurse, and it was the prospect of providing care that gave her hope while fighting Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The award will honour Shannon’s legacy, and support Nursing students with a passion for helping others. Established by her loving husband Aaron Trachtenberg, along with family and friends, this award will be valued at a minimum of $1000 and presented annually to a student graduating from the Bachelor of Nursing program. The recipient will have successfully completed a Senior Practicum in a pediatric or oncology setting with a preference for those who have expressed a particular interest in pediatric oncology specifically. They will also have demonstrated a high level of skill and academic achievement, but most importantly a caring and compassionate attitude with patients and colleagues. Application forms will be available from the Nursing Repository and should be accompanied by two reference letters: one from a preceptor and one from a faculty member, and a short write up about their future goals in the interest area. Applications will be accepted throughout the year, and the recipient will be selected annually in the fall.