We often hear that every donation makes a difference, no matter the amount. The saying couldn’t ring truer for Lin Perceval, Bill Jeffries and Ryan McBride, three SFU alumni donors who are making a meaningful impact on students’ lives through their giving.
From empowering women in technology and Indigenous students in the arts, to supporting innovative educational techniques, each alumni donor has a story to tell about why they give, and how we can all be inspired to make a difference when it comes to causes that are close to our hearts.
Empowering the next generation of women
Without an undergraduate degree in hand, Lin Perceval (MBA ’86) considered herself an unconventional candidate for SFU’s graduate business program.
After completing high school in her native Ireland, Lin’s parents couldn’t afford to send her to university. Instead, Lin went on to take a secretarial course—one of the few options available to women at the time.
“Many women are fighting an endless uphill battle in being underpaid, out-promoted and out-earned,” says Lin. “This is why supporting education is so important.”
This sentiment is what propelled her to establish the Lin Perceval Graduate Scholarship in Business, which grants $2,500 annually to support female graduate students in the Management of Technology program.
For Lin, helping women pursue a successful career in business and technology—a program and field where they are still underrepresented—means setting them up to be more financially secure in the future. This way, women are less likely to face poverty in their retirement, she says.
It wasn’t until Lin came to Canada that she revisited the possibility of a university education. She set her eyes on SFU’s MBA program, where the night courses she was taking could be considered for entry without a formal undergraduate degree. After successfully obtaining her MBA, Lin has contributed to the university every year for the past three decades until the creation of her graduate scholarship.
“I can’t fix a lot of the issues that women face, but I can try to support their education,” she says. “If putting a bit of money in someone’s pocket helps them through school, then it’s worth something.”
Supporting Indigenous students in the arts
Born in Jersey City, Bill Jeffries (MA ’95) never set foot in an art museum as a child. Yet he eventually became a curator, writer, and artist. Bill completed his master’s degree in liberal studies at SFU in 1995 and subsequently served as director and curator at SFU Galleries from 2005 until his retirement in 2012. During his seven years at SFU, he had the pleasure of seeing thousands of students engage with visual art on campus, both in the gallery and in public areas.
In 2018, he made a generous gift and three-year commitment to establish the School for Contemporary Arts Award for Indigenous Students, which granted $1,000 annually to an Indigenous undergraduate student in the school.
“It was an obvious choice to create this award because I wanted to support underrepresented students in some way, and also support something arts-related,” he says. “Students in the arts clearly need just as much support as students in other areas.”
Last year, SFU granted the first $1,000 award and he realized that such a fund would not exist in five years if he didn’t raise more funds. To endow the fund in perpetuity he asked friends to help reach that goal. Many of them rose to the challenge.
At the end of 2020, the fund was still a few thousand dollars short, but in January 2021 a generous contribution of $5,000 pushed the fund over the $20,000 mark. The fund is now endowed, and Bill is looking forward to sourcing larger sums “simply so that the awards can be larger.”
“Giving back just seems like a normal thing. When I was a student, I received all kinds of financial support,” he says. “We were all students once.”
Enabling education graduates in a rapidly changing world
As an SFU student not long ago, Ryan McBride (BSc ’12, PhD ’19), who taught discrete mathematics and computing science at the university last spring, was motivated to do something after seeing the impact of COVID-19 on his students and their mental health.
“You can’t underestimate the difficulties of suddenly having to move and uproot your life, having less access to co-op, support and financial security, or even having family members in other parts of the world,” says Ryan. “It’s definitely disruptive and I’ve seen first-hand how it affects my students.”
Last October, as part of Ryan’s work at the Rotary Club of Burnaby, the Step Up Virtual Walkathon was organized to raise funds for a few local non-profits including SFU. To be as inclusive as possible, participants were encouraged to do an exercise of their choice and pledge one dollar for each hour of activity, whether it was walking, biking or some other activity.
The goal was to raise money and also motivate people to get some exercise during the pandemic. Almost $1,100 of the funds raised went towards the Rotary Club of Burnaby Scholarship for Education, which supports a Faculty of Education graduate student with a focus on innovative educational techniques.
“Scholarships can mean the difference between delaying a term or not,” says Ryan.
“Supporting students during these extraordinary times is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also investing in these students so that they can provide a quality education to others. With classes going remote during the pandemic, we can see how important it is to continue innovating in education.”
We would like to thank all of our generous donors for their tremendous commitment to SFU. Your support enables students to realize their full potential and gain the skills they need to become tomorrow’s leaders.