Some of Brandon University’s most committed supporters were feted at the annual BU Foundation Luncheon, held Wednesday at the university’s Harvest Hall.
The Foundation, which has a mission to promote the advancement of higher education at Brandon University and to improve the quality of its facilities and activities, shared details of the past year’s fundraising and support activities, celebrated members of the Order of the Sheaf, and heard from students who had been directly impacted by Foundation funding.
“We are truly fortunate to have the support of such dedicated and generous donors, who are committed to Brandon University and to the programs and services we offer our students,” said Foundation President Dwight Conroy. “We especially thank all of our donors and volunteers who have graciously given their financial and volunteer support to Brandon University through the BU Foundation. Your contributions enable BU to continue to grow for the benefit of our students.”
A highlight of the luncheon was the presentation of the Brandon University Foundation Honorary Trustee Apex Award to Gerald Butler, BSc ’63, Cert of Ed ’64. The prestigious Apex Award recognizes meritorious service and outstanding leadership to the BU Foundation.
Butler grew up in Brandon across the street from Brandon College and has had a life-long affiliation with his alma mater. Starting just a couple of years after graduation, Butler took positions with both the Alumni board and the Foundation board, including time on both as President. More recently, he helped establish the Winnipeg Alumni Chapter, where he served as Chair for many years and continues as an active member.
“For decades, Gerald has been the Class of 1963 reunion organizer encouraging classmates to meet at Homecoming to reconnect with each other and their alma mater,” Conroy added. “Through all this, Gerald’s wife Carmen has been by his side and together, they are recognized as an important part of the BU family.”
On the fundraising side, Butler served as a committee chairperson for the Building from Strength Campaign, established an iPad initiative for PENT students, and contributed to several other initiatives including Mini-U, the Seven Generations Scholarship, Enactus Bursaries, the McCutcheon Alcove and the Student Emergency Fund.
Gifts have many beneficiaries, Butler pointed out in his acceptance remarks. Along with the direct recipient, he said that the giver also benefits, as do those who are inspired or uplifted by hearing about the gift. The impacts are even more widespread in the case of education, he said, which pays lasting dividends.
“The whole community benefits,” Butler said. “I’m so proud, speaking on behalf of our whole family, to be part of this wonderful place called Brandon University. Thank you for this honour.”
Many other significant donors were honoured at the luncheon through the Order of the Sheaf, which recognizes donors who have given more than $1,000. This year, 34 new members were inducted into the honour society, and 28 existing members advanced to a higher philanthropic level of giving.
Two students spoke to the assembled guests. Ben Kensok is pursuing his Bachelor of Music Education and Janice Dutchak will be receiving her Bachelor of Arts four-year honours degree during the 2023 Convocation, where she is a valedictorian.
“Choosing to study in Brandon is a decision I am proud to have made,” said Kensok, who is from North Dakota. He said that the warm welcome he received at BU made the difference. “I had an immediate feeling of belonging and chose to attend Brandon University – a place I felt truly welcome – without hesitation.”
Now, he says, the community welcome has encouraged him to stay in Canada after graduation and pursue a career here.
“Brandon has become a true home for me, as I have encountered memorable experiences, built relationships, and developed myself professionally through Brandon University’s many opportunities,” he said. “These opportunities would not be possible without the support of my scholarship donors, to whom I would like to offer a special thanks… Without the kindhearted people in this community, I would not be where I am today.”
Dutchak said that being a lawyer was always her ultimate goal, but at first she wasn’t sure just how to get there.
“The path I wanted to take to achieve my dream was a little more uncertain,” she said. When she discovered sociology at Brandon University, along with the ways that sociology overlapped with the law, things became clearer. But it was something she may not have been able to discover without the flexibility afforded by scholarships.
“Without the remarkably generous support of scholarship donors, I never would have been able to follow my dream. Scholarships allowed me to focus on my studies, and to pursue what interests me,” she said. “Scholarships and bursaries are by far one of the most important things to have in a university.”
Now, she says, she has a new dream: “I hope I can be just like all of you wonderful donors and help other deserving students reach their dreams.”
The annual Foundation luncheon is an opportunity to recognize donors who generously support operations and education at BU. In 2022, the Foundation raised nearly $3.25 million, and distributed more than $3.2 million back to the university. About 60 per cent of that (just under $2 million) was provided directly to students in the form of scholarships and bursaries.
Despite market headwinds, the BU Foundation now stewards more than $73.2 million in total assets and has disbursed more than $68.8 million in support to the University since its inception in 1980.
Major new endowments this year include the Hatch Scholarship-Bursary, the Brandon College Caps Student Athletic Scholarship-Bursary, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization Every Child Matters Scholarship, the Gender and Women’s Studies Bursary, and the William John Friesen Memorial Scholarship in Science.
More details of the BU Foundation’s successes are contained in its Annual Report, posted online at BrandonU.ca/Give/Foundation, and shared with members at the luncheon.
Order of the Sheaf presentations
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