Where are they now: MacEwan's first national champion - badminton star Humble - now an MSVU professor

Áine Humble won two CCAA national badminton titles when she was a student-athlete at MacEwan from 1987-89 and is now a distinguished professor and academic in the department of family studies and gerontology at Halifax's Mount Saint Vincent University (Courtesy, Áine Humble).
Áine Humble won two CCAA national badminton titles when she was a student-athlete at MacEwan from 1987-89 and is now a distinguished professor and academic in the department of family studies and gerontology at Halifax's Mount Saint Vincent University (Courtesy, Áine Humble).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Bagels.

The glorious toasted circles of dough – enhanced with generous swaths of cream cheese and stacks of lox – are consumed around the world.

For badminton players, though, the term takes on a whole new meaning.

Skunk an opponent so badly they don't score a point?


And if you do it multiple times, you get a nickname.

"My teammates were calling me the Bagel Girl or Bagel Queen," said former MacEwan Griffins student-athlete Áine Humble, who went on such a dominant run at the 1988 CCAA national badminton championship, she was shutting out her opponents.

"We actually have a photograph of all of us holding up bagels because of this. It was pretty funny."

Áine Humble (middle row, second from left) and her ACAC teammates hold up bagels to signify holding an opponent scoreless during the 1988 CCAA nationals. (Courtesy, Áine Humble).

More than 30 years later, she is now known as Dr. Áine Humble after completing her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Women Studies from Oregon State University in 2003. Humble is currently a distinguished professor and academic in the department of family studies and gerontology at Halifax's Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU).

In a June conversation, she fondly recalled her days as a high-level badminton athlete at MacEwan. At the 1988 CCAA nationals at Canadian Coast Guard College in Sydney, N.S., Humble was Team Alberta's star female singles player and it quickly became apparent she wouldn't be beaten.

"I was the strongest female player there by far," she said. "Every person I played leading into the final – in those days it was a best two out of three games and you played up to 11 – I won every match in two games. It never went to three. And in every match, one game was 11-0."

After defeating Fanshawe's Penny Scott in the final, Humble made history, winning the first national title – individual or team – in MacEwan Athletics history.

"I don't remember it being monumental for me," she said. "I don't know if I knew when it happened that there hadn't been a national title. I think I found out about it after the fact. But it was really exciting to win. It was quite thrilling to note I brought them home their first national title."

In the years since, 11 more individual CCAA gold medals were won by Griffins student-athletes – including another one co-authored by Humble when she teamed with Carlyn Ching to win the 1989 CCAA women's doubles championship. She also was twice named a CCAA All Canadian.

Áine Humble, left, poses with Griffins head coach Alan Thom after winning the badminton team's MVP award in 1988. A year later, she was named MacEwan's Female Athlete of the Year (file photo).

Over a 12-year span from 1988-2000 under head coach Alan Thom, MacEwan's badminton squad became a dynasty, winning 21 individual medals at CCAA Championships – including 11 golds – boasting 15 CCAA All Canadians and capturing 24 ACAC individual championships.

"I think we were really lucky at that period of time in reaching out to or forging a relationship with China," said Humble of Chinese stars Wen Wang and Sian Deng, who joined the program starting in the 1988-89 season, and combined for four CCAA individual titles over their Griffins careers (three of those by Wang, who is on MacEwan Athletics' Wall of Distinction, in the CCAA Hall of Fame and in the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame).

"We knew there were players interested in coming to Canada to study. I don't know the logistics behind it, but they got Wang and Sian the next year. There was something going on behind the scenes to get these really good players to the college. And it worked. These were top, top players. Wang and Sian won national titles in Canada at the national level."

Humble achieved that level in junior competition. Growing up as products of Edmonton's Derrick Club, she and twin brother David Humble – who would later represent Canada at the 1992 Olympics – teamed up to win national mixed doubles titles at the U16 level once and at the U19 level twice.

By the time Humble entered MacEwan's Early Childhood Development program in 1987, she was ready to lead the Griffins badminton program into its golden years.

"When I was playing at the college level, that was an easier level to play at compared with where I was at before, so I really was playing against a lot of players who hadn't trained to the degree that I had," said Humble, who was named MacEwan's female athlete of the year in 1988-89. "That was absolutely the case with some of the players who came after me. Wen Wang and Sian Deng were eons better than me."

MacEwan's 1988-89 badminton team featured three national champions, four CCAA All Canadians and multiple ACAC medalists. Áine Humble is seated next to the trophies (file photo).

That made the team event a ton of fun. In those days, the ACAC conference went as the same team, rather than each individual school.

"I really enjoyed the camaraderie of playing and competing as a team," said Humble. "That was new to me. Everyone was so supportive and they shared in your wins. The second year I was there, at the nationals you could win your individual event and there was also the team competition, so I think my first year we got the silver in the team competition. The second year when we now had Wang and Sian, we just blew by everyone.

"The team would celebrate your individual wins and the team win. It was lovely."

After graduating from MacEwan in 1989, though, she stopped playing and focused on academics. Humble earned a Bachelor of Science in Family Studies with Distinction in Home Economics from the University of Alberta in 1992, a Master of Science in Family Life Education, also from the U of A, in 1995, and became a Certified Family Life Educator in 1997 before completing her PhD.

Humble has now been teaching at MSVU since 2002 and has numerous awards, honours and published works to her credit, including the 2020 Anselm Strauss Award for Qualitative Family Research for a book she co-edited with Miami University's M. Elise Radina called 'How qualitative data analysis happens: Moving beyond "themes emerged".'

In 2020, Dr. Áine Humble won the Anselm Strauss Award for Qualitative Family Research, alongside Miami University colleague M. Elise Radina for their book, featured above (Courtesy, Áine Humble).

Among her passions in the field has been an interest in LGBTQ families and she has numerous published works on the subject in various academic journals.

"That's a very important topic," said Humble. "I first became involved in it probably around 2009 when I realized nobody's really researching about same sex marriage even though it had recently been made legal across Canada. It just seemed like a perfect opportune topic to study.

"Certainly before that, I've always used an inclusive definition of family in my courses and I recognize all types of families. So, it was certainly a natural extension to focus on that as a topic."

Humble has spent the summer creating a course on LGBTQ families for her department. Her work has been important in helping the LGBTQ community gain inclusion in Canada society, but it doesn't mean they don't still have challenges.

"I think there's increasing acceptance for LGBTQ families and individuals," said Humble. "Stats Canada actually just came out with a report (in June) that indicates four per cent of the population over the age of 50 identifies as LGBTQ. One-third of those people who identify as LGBTQ are under the age of 25. So, there are a lot younger people who identify as such and I think that's because they have more freedom to do so, and that's a positive thing.

"But at the same time, that doesn't mean there aren't challenges. There's still pervasive homophobia and transphobia that people experience. So, there's still lots of room for growth in accepting people who identify as sexual and gender minorities."

In her role at MSVU, Humble also enjoys teaching on various topics surrounding aging and gerontology.

"I would say healthy aging is not just about the personal choices that a person makes," said Humble. "It's also about the support in communities and the support in provincial and federal jurisdictions. It's about combating ageism and about valuing older people. All of those things contribute to healthy aging.

"Obviously, things like eating well, exercising, engaging in cognitive activities and having good supportive relations (are key), but it's important to look at all these broader factors that may impact the way that people age."

In her spare time, Humble is also a Maritimes fibre artist, with a focus on rug hooking and some tapestry weaving (check out her works on Instagram @anneborg1014).

Among all of her other pursuits, Humble has also found a way back to the badminton court in recent years.

"When I was 39, I decided to come back to badminton after not playing for almost two decades," she said. "My brother was after me to play with him in the national masters again. So I came out of retirement and I played from age 39-45 again. I got five silver medals and a gold medal at the national masters before I retired a second time."

In the final tournament she played, Áine Humble (second from left) celebrates her seventh and final national badminton title in the Ladies Doubles 45 and Over division at the 2012 Canadian Masters Badminton Championships (Courtesy, Áine Humble).

For the last decade, Humble has been an umpire in the sport - the last few years at the national level - including recently working at the CCAA championship.

"That's been a trip. I've crossed over to the dark side, as I like to joke," she said. "It's really neat working from the other side. I enjoy it."

She's also recently had reminders of her days as a Griffins student-athlete.

"It is super fun to be umpiring at the college nationals," said Humble. "The first time I did it (in 2019), both of Wang's children were there (Desmond and Takeisha Wang won the 2019 CCAA mixed doubles title, representing Concordia) and I mentioned to them that I had played with their dad for Grant MacEwan back in the day.

"The tournament was being held in Nova Scotia that year and I went and found an old photograph of the team and I showed it to his kids, and they said 'we've hardly ever seen any photos of our dad when he was younger.' So that was fun for them to see that photo.

"I had a great run at Grant MacEwan College," she added. "I stopped playing after that, but it was really fun to come back to it later in life, and I am enjoying that I've transitioned to the umpiring side of things and contributing back to the sport in that way."