Paying it forward: helping future students 

By Karen Herland

Every year numerous individuals decide to give back to Concordia for any number of reasons; employees contribute to the community campaign, colleagues challenge each other to build an endowment, or alumni start businesses and invest some of their profits into future generations.

But some people find other creative ways to make a difference. Marjorie Gawley is among them. Not only has she arranged for a bursary to support women in need, but she and her husband have also chosen to leave a part of their eventual estate to the university.

Gawley graduated from high school in 1959 and, based on her excellent grades, assumed that her university career would be equally successful. Instead, a series of circumstances and a scholarship led her to what was then a year-long program at Teacher’s College. Instead of continuing her studies, she was in front of a classroom at 16.

Her accreditation hinged on supplementing her diploma with a series of university-level credits earned within five years. To keep teaching, Gawley had to study at night. Sir George Williams University was her only option, even though the teaching accreditation came through McGill’s MacDonald College. “McGill insisted on day attendance and had no interest in accommodating people in my situation, those with not enough money to attend school full time,” she wrote recently.

Gawley still cherishes the opportunity, looking back over a rewarding career until her retirement in 1998. “Concordia has and continues to contribute greatly to the education of so many people in Montreal who would not otherwise be able to attend university.” Because of that, she decided years ago to will some of her estate to Concordia. In the meantime, she established an endowment toward creating a bursary. That bursary is specifically slated for women who are in financial need. She named it for her own mother, who supported her quest for an education.

Gawley is only one of several people each year who decide to leave a portion of their estate to Concordia. “We’ve had $3.4 million in future commitments in the seven months that I’ve been here,” said Silvia Ugolini, Director of Planned Giving. With a background in law and estate and financial planning, she advises individuals who are interested in making a planned gift or leaving a legacy to the university.

Ugolini’s team can help individuals choose the appropriate giving vehicle and tailor it to their preferences. An endowment, for example, can go to students in a particular field of study or situation (mature student or single parent) or can be left ‘silent’ allowing the university to determine the greatest need. “We respect the donor’s intentions and ensure a win-win situation,” said Ugolini.

Gawley is meeting with that team to determine what the best use of the eventual legacy might be. Ideally, she would like to leave funds to support students in fields that do not necessarily attract high corporate or government funding.

In January, more than half a million dollars was left through the estates of Hélène Linder, Vladmir J. Elgart and Alfred R. M. Bacher. All of these funds will be available on a renewable basis in annual amounts varying from $10 000 to $20 000 for graduate students. Recently, the university has decided that funding graduate students was a priority.

“I am very appreciative of the fact that we are able to use those gifts to address a clear academic priority — support for graduate students,” said VP Research and Graduate Studies Louise Dandurand. “It will enable the university to direct that support towards programs and areas where we are doing work of the highest quality but that do not necessarily attract traditional corporate support.”


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