Julie O'Rourke Scholarship

About Julie

Julie O'Rourke
Julie O'Rourke

Julie Ann Elizabeth O'Rourke was one of those rare people who loved life and could make you love yours, was pre-eminently successful as a scholar and an artist, provided deep insight into any challenge of the heart, and brought together diverse friends and family all at once.

She was a professional photographer and fine artist, received her BFA from York University, and, after backpacking through Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia, pursued a MFA from Ryerson University, doing major projects in New York City and the George Eastman House in Rochester. The focus of her Master's work was on the restoration and conservation of photographs, particularly from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Julie worked an entire summer with VHS, matching fine art and photography to short stories. By analyzing both for the human experience and explicating how one related to the other, Julie enhanced VHS English courses with her interpretations.

Artistically, Julie was especially interested in the avant-garde and the synthesis of old and new forms. She had an exacting aesthetic that at once reflected Victorian, Art Deco, Industrial, and Post-modern sensibilities. These themes recurred in her photography and in her other artistic endeavours. She had hoped to pursue a second Master's degree in the field of art therapy.

Julie had a deep love of travel and adventure. She hiked in Thailand, dived at the Great Barrier Reef, surfed in Portugal, jogged in Central Park, and moved within the artistic community of Paris. She frequently admonished her friends by saying, "Don't talk about doing something — do it".

Her friends were both numerous and diverse, and she was equally at ease at an academic discussion in a fine restaurant or in a random gathering in rural Ontario. The common thread was her great love of people; she had an intuitive way of understanding people and usually liking what she saw. For Julie, there was never any question that her friends and family would be compatible, and she never missed an opportunity to bring the people she loved together.

After a three year battle with a rare cancer called adenoid cystic carcinoma and two months after celebrating her thirtieth birthday, Julie passed away in March of 2011. Her love of life, people, and adventure never diminished through that fight, in spite of extraordinary pain and persistent bad news—all of which testify to her extraordinary strength of character.

The Scholarship

The Julie O'Rourke Memorial Scholarship, which is worth $1000, is intended to offset expenses for a student pursuing post-secondary studies in fine arts (variously defined). The purpose of the scholarship is to perpetuate Julie's talents and the light that she brought to the world by seeing and encouraging this light in others.

The Successful Candidate

The successful candidate will receive $1000 from the Julie O'Rourke Memorial Scholarship fund in September of each year. Virtual High School requests the pleasure of correspondence with the winner. Specifically, we would like the winner, after the first year (or first term) to write a short (less than 1000 words) open letter on "how it's going".

In the letter, the winner will describe how he or she has grown artistically over the past 12 months, lessons learned in the past year, interesting people the recipient has met, and surprises that have occurred during the previous year. We will publish these letters each year on our website.



The deadline for applications is September 15 of each year.

Application Form

Instructions: The application form is a fillable PDF. You may complete an electronic copy and save it to your computer, or print a hard copy to include with your portfolio. When saving an electronic copy of the application form and your work, use the same naming convention (ex. student_name-year-application_form).


You must provide proof that you have been accepted, or provisionally accepted, to a program in fine arts at the post-secondary level. The school that you are planning to attend must be accredited in its jurisdiction, but otherwise, there are no restrictions on where or the type of fine arts program you choose to pursue.

You must be either a current student with Virtual High School or have successfully completed a course with VHS within the past twelve (12) months from the date you apply for the scholarship.

Instructions: Please submit a copy of your acceptance letter or other proof with your application. Please use the same naming convention as your application form (ex. student_name-year-acceptance_letter).


Please provide us with digital photographs, audio, or video of some of your work, in any medium. The scope of the work we review in the portfolio is wide, and we are not expecting you to have already acquired the skills and insights that your post-secondary studies will provide. However, we do need to see evidence that you are a practicing artist in your own right.

Instructions: Please submit all electronic files using the same naming convention as your application form (ex. student_name-year-portfolio1; student_name-year-portfolio2, etc.)

Personal Sketch

Julie's workWe want to know that, like Julie, your excellent work will produce opportunities to live life courageously, positively, and to its fullest.

Tell us about your dreams, loves, and hopes. Do you want to travel? Study abroad? Invent a new medium? Change the views of society on one issue or another? Rather than having a specific emphasis, we are focusing on your enthusiasm about the things you want to do to infuse life with art.

We also want to know about your artistic goals. How will your work push boundaries, challenge ideas, or shed light on a new aesthetic? Where will you draw your influences, and what or whom do you hope to influence? Which media and influences can be brought together in a new way?

In short, why must you be an artist? You may tell us in any way you like — a short (less than 500 word) written statement, a personal sketch, a short video or vocal recording, or through another medium. The idea of giving you a choice of mediums in which to submit work allows you to present your creative project in a way that best exemplifies your talents.

Instructions: Please submit all electronic files using the same naming convention as your application form (ex. student_name-year-personal_sketch).

Free Form Writing Piece

Tell us your best story. Keep it short. It should be about you, but it doesn't need to be entirely true, although it can be. Leave out any bits that might be incriminating. Make sure it involves at least one other person.

Instructions: Please submit all electronic files using the same naming convention as your application form (ex. student_name-year-free_form_story).

Application Process

Please complete the 5 requirements:

Provide all 5 requirements using the application method of your choice:

By email

By mail

  • Virtual High School Awards Team
    Julie O'Rourke Memorial Scholarship
    c/o Virtual High School
    27 Main St. North, Box 402
    Bayfield, Ontario, Canada
    N0M 1G0

All information collected is considered CONFIDENTIAL. The selection committee will be composed of members of the VHS Awards Team who will treat all submitted information in a confidential manner. Results will be released only to the recipient.