Political Science students benefit from professors' generosity
In September 1965, SFU opened its doors for the very first time. The campus - still under construction - stood prominently atop Burnaby Mountain against the backdrop of Pacific coastal forest. Political Science professor, A. H. 'Som' Somjee found himself in another world, far from his former teaching positions at the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Maharaja Sayajirao (MS) University of Baroda in India.
Som and his wife, Geeta, agreed to come to SFU for one year to help set up the newly established PSA department - Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology. Twenty-five years later, Som retired from his position at SFU and became Professor Emeritus.
Throughout Som's time at SFU, Geeta was a major supporter of the evolvoing university. A renowned political scientist in her own right - she received her PhD from MS University of Baroda and was a visiting fellow at Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford University, Wellesley College Centre for Research on Women and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, as well as an Adjunct Professor at SFU - she was also Som's lifelong research collaborator. Separately and together, they published more than 12 books on topics such as empirical political theory, the politics of small communities and the society and politics of South Asia, all while adjusting to and thriving in their new life in Canada.
Geeta made her wishes known to Som that she wanted to give back to SFU. When she passed in 2013, after 56 years of marriage, he established two endowment funds in her memory, supporting a remarkable three graduate fellowships and five undergraduate scholarships in Political Science.
Now 92 years old and working on publishing his autobiography, Som has also included a planned gift to SFU in his will. He hopes the growth of the two endowment funds will ensure that future generations of SFU students have the opportunity to conduct vital research and complete their studies in political science.