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Investing in SFU, our communities and our future

Andrew Petter and Maureen Maloney

Andrew Petter and Maureen Maloney have always been believers in the value of education and its role in enhancing the well-being of communities. “My mother strongly advocated for education which impacted her life in profound ways,” Andrew recalls. “As an Austrian Jew, she would not have survived the Holocaust had she not graduated from a program that enabled her to travel professionally and to meet my father, who was English.”  

Andrew and Maureen have seen first hand what a university education can do to uplift and empower individuals and communities—Maureen and her two siblings were the first in their community to attend university. It comes as no surprise that the couple’s commitment to promoting higher learning led them both to Simon Fraser University in 2010, with Andrew as president and Maureen as professor in the School of Public Policy. 

What drew them to SFU was the chance to join an institution that stood apart both in its history as a radical campus and in its longstanding commitment to communities. As SFU’s ninth president and vice-chancellor, Andrew worked to build on those traditions by establishing SFU as Canada’s “engaged university defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research, and far-reaching community engagement.”

To pay homage to SFU’s historical roots and drive a bold vision for the future, Andrew championed the record-breaking “Power of Engagement” fundraising campaign to raise $250 million in recognition of the university’s 50th anniversary. As he wrote in his 2013 op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, the campaign—which surpassed its goal—could be seen as a “down payment on another half century of excellence.”

A worthwhile investment

For Andrew and Maureen, philanthropic contributions to education are the best “down payment” one can make to benefit one’s community and the future. By investing in people—through education and research—and by supporting students who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend university, what you receive in gratification is worth so much more than what you contribute, says Andrew.

“Because of SFU’s deep commitment to community engagement, the benefits of investing in our students and researchers extend to the broader community in remarkable ways,” he notes. “For example, the SFU students you support are likely to contribute to community betterment even during their studies through the university’s extensive co-op programs, service-learning opportunities, innovation initiatives and the like.”

As president and professor, it was important for Andrew and Maureen to support SFU not only through their work, but also through their philanthropy. When it comes to giving, the couple has made a profound commitment to SFU by supporting Indigenous students and reconciliation efforts, as well as students who wish to pursue a career in public service and public policy. 

Maureen points to the vital role of public service and policy during the COVID-19 pandemic, where we heavily relied on leadership and coordination across all levels of government. “More than ever, we need people who are well-positioned and well-equipped to serve the public interest if we are going to build the vibrant, equitable and sustainable future we desire,” she says.

As president, it was also important for Andrew to demonstrate his personal dedication to what he was encouraging on the part of others: “If you believe in your institution and ask others to do the same, and you know that additional support will help the university to achieve that much more, how can you not contribute?”


Investing in our future

When asked about the issues that they are passionate about, Andrew and Maureen point to social inequality and the climate crisis—issues that are also central to SFU’s mission to create an equitable and sustainable future.

During Andrew’s tenure as SFU president, the university made significant progress on initiatives to promote reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and on advancing its sustainability commitments. He also oversaw major expansion of all three SFU campuses, including: a state-of-the-art Surrey building to house a new sustainable energy engineering program; the Charles Chang Innovation Centre and SFU community-engaged research hub at 312 Main Street in Vancouver; and the development on Burnaby Mountain of a student union building, new student residences, a stadium on Terry Fox Field, and a soon-to-be-built art museum and First Peoples’ Gathering House. 

Maureen, British Columbia’s first woman law dean and Deputy Attorney General, currently teaches in the areas of justice systems, international human rights and conflict resolution. She has also served as a member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and board member of the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy.

Their accomplishments are themselves shining examples of what can happen when one invests in people who are then empowered to benefit others and make valuable contributions to their communities and beyond.

“To give is to invest in the future,” says Andrew, “and there is no better way to shape a brighter future than to support our students and researchers. By doing so, we leave a legacy for future generations and for all of society.”

Inspiring others

Andrew Petter’s and Maureen Maloney’s record of academic leadership and philanthropy has inspired others, resulting in substantial gifts in their honour from close friends of SFU. These generous commitments will go towards transforming the lives of SFU students and advancing the university’s mission to foster and advance community engagement.

To acknowledge their contributions to SFU, two gifts in support of SFU students were made in 2020 by alumnus Frode Strand-Nielsen (BA ’80) and the Y.P. Heung Foundation. Frode’s transformative commitment to women’s athletics at SFU will help develop and empower female leaders on and off the field, while the Y.P. Heung Foundation’s scholarships will support graduate students in the School of Public Policy—a program that holds a lot of personal significance for Andrew and Maureen.

That same year, long-time SFU community member Yosef Wosk pledged in Andrew’s honour to further strengthen the Wosk family’s commitment dedication to dialogue and engagement by enlarging its endowment in support of SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

“It was very moving to learn that these wonderful gifts were made in appreciation of Maureen and my efforts,” says Andrew. “That means a lot to us.”