2012 Gifts Make a Difference

Read about some of the many things made possible by gifts from our community.


Open Our World - The Campaign for Athabasca University

2012 marks a special milestone for Athabasca University: the public launch of our first university-wide fundraising campaign, Open Our World.

For over 40 years, we’ve been working to remove barriers to post-secondary learning so that people anywhere in the world, no matter where they live or what other obstacles may stand in their way, can have open access to university education. With this campaign, we seek to reinforce our leadership in open-access, online and distance learning by focusing on four key areas:

Student awards

For many students, financial pressures can be an insurmountable barrier to learning. Bursaries, scholarships and other student awards help to break down the financial barrier and create more opportunities for people to achieve academic and career goals that otherwise would have been beyond their reach.

Learning innovation

AU is constantly expanding learning opportunities and embracing innovations, technological and otherwise, to remove barriers to learning. Learning innovation is essential for the university to remain on the vanguard of e-learning.


Researchers in all faculties at AU are advancing knowledge in their respective fields and applying this research to AU programs and courses. We’re also recognized around the world for our leadership in distance education research.

Community service

Strong, healthy communities provide the framework for our success as a university. We are committed to building communities through a wide range of initiatives that foster collaboration, leadership and innovation.

Today, we stand at a crossroads. There is tremendous opportunity for AU as the world shifts to an economy based on knowledge as well as physical assets, but we are also challenged by the costs of developing our educational resources and by competition in the increasingly sophisticated field of e-learning. This campaign will ensure that we continue to open our world — a world of opportunity for learners and for the communities we serve.

Campaign timeline

2008-09: We establish a goal of $30 million, and AU’s leaders kickstart the campaign with personal contributions. For information about their support for the campaign and for Athabasca University itself, see the message from our president, Dr. Frits Pannekoek (opposite), and the profiles of our current and past board chairs, Barry Walker and Joy Romero.

2009-10: Faculty and staff join the campaign.

2010-11: We plan and prepare for launching the campaign publicly and sharing our campaign vision with our friends, partners, alumni and the many communities we serve.

2012-13: We launch the campaign publicly and continue working towards our $30-million goal.

The results so far Thanks to over 300 donors who share our vision for removing barriers to post-secondary learning, we’ve already raised 73% of our $30-million goal. Thanks so much to all of you! See the end of this issue for a full list of our donors.

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2012


Opening doors to education

Helping Students, Helping Society

Barry Walker, Chair of the Athabasca University Board of Governors (2009-present)

For the past eight years, Barry Walker has served Athabasca Universityfirst as a public member of the university’s Board of Governors and then as chair of the board since 2009. But Barry has watched AU grow from the very beginning, and he and his wife Valerie are leaving a legacy with the university that will allow it to continue to grow and contribute to the success of students and society.

A chartered accountant, Barry has worked with clients in the Athabasca area since the 1960s, and his firm established a permanent office in Athabasca in 1985, a year after AU outgrew its original facilities in Edmonton and opened up its own permanent offices in Athabasca.

He watched the Athabasca campus grow with interest, and he and Valerie took AU courses both for the sheer joy, of learning and for professional development in their respective fields: accounting and early childhood development. When he was invited to join AU’s board in 2004, he was happy to say yes. Within a year, he was chair of the board’s finance committee, and five years later, he was chair of the board itself.

In addition to serving on AU’s board, Barry has been an active volunteer for many other community organizations, and so has Valerie. In the last few years, they decided to take their community service in another direction by creating student award endowments for the two post-secondary institutions that have played a major role in their lives: Grant MacEwan University, where they’ve both worked as instructors, and AU.

At AU, there are two Walker family awards for students at the beginning of similar career paths as Barry and Valerie — one award is for accounting students, while the other is for counselling students who are focusing on services for children or youth in their practicum placement.

“We believe that in the long haul, the assistance you provide to students not only benefits the individual, but it benefits society as a whole,” says Barry. “Just as education helped Valerie and me become people who contribute to society, [assistance for students] sets them up to get their own education and become productive members of society who contribute in their own way. It might not be dollars and cents to educational institutions, but they will contribute to society. So we see our endowments as a way of giving back to society as a whole.”

The Walkers plan to continue adding funds to their endowments “as long as we’re around,” he says with a smile. They’ve also made a provision in their wills to top up the endowments with their estate.

“We want them to be a permanent legacy, not because we want any glory or any significant recognition. We’re not people who need the limelight,” he says. “What makes us feel good is just knowing this is happening.”

A love for education and a love for AU

Joy Romero, Former Chair of the Athabasca University Board of Governors (2006-09)

“Without education, I’m not quite sure what my life would look like,” says Joy Romero. “In my family I was that first generation that went to university. I came from a very modest background. Education is really what opened all the doors for me in my life and allowed me to provide for my family.”

Romero is an engineer and the vice-president of technology development at Canadian Natural Resources Limited. She also graduated from Athabasca University in 2006 with a Master of Business Administration. Even though her free time is rare, she’s never lost sight of her love for education and has always found time for education-related volunteer work. She’s served as a school trustee, for example, and participated in programs that help high school students transition to university.

“[I did a lot of work around] trying to remove barriers and getting people involved in education, which of course is what Athabasca University is all about,” she says. So when she was asked to join the board of AU in 2002, she couldn’t resist the opportunity. Her final years on the board (2006-2009) were spent as the chair, a position she likely earned “because I didn’t sit down,” she says with a laugh.

It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of her family, who sacrificed some of their time with Romero as she attended to her board duties. “My husband Diego also shares my conviction towards education,” she says. “And we also believe in giving back. You receive a lot in your younger years, and then you reach a point where it’s your turn to give back.”

“It’s not just my husband and I,” she continues. “Our kids also respect that need to give back to community. They have a healthy respect for education and what AU stands for, so our whole family’s always been really comfortable with our commitment to AU.”

At one point, Romero, her daughter and her dad, who was in his 80s at the time, were all taking AU courses for vastly different reasons. Her dad was studying civilizations for personal interest. Her daughter was a visiting student from the University of Calgary taking AU courses to round out her degree. And Romero was working on her MBA, a long-time goal of hers that she didn’t muster the courage to pursue until she attended an AU convocation. “I had no intention of doing my MBA any time soon, because I thought, I can’t manage it, I don’t have the time,” she says. “But watching people convocate, and listening to their stories of what they overcame to graduate — I thought, if they can do it, I can do it … It was actually watching convocation that gave me the confidence to do my MBA. AU’s convocation is such an inspiring thing.”

The Romeros have created a bursary for MBA students in financial need. They’ve also contributed funds to scholarships for graduate students and are supporting the university with other long-term financial contributions. “It’s important to always have some of component of your life that’s giving back,” says Romero. “I love education and what it does for people, and I really love how AU provides people with more options in terms of ways to learn. Giving to the university and serving on its board has been very rewarding for me.”

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2012


Giving back and paying forward

“I grew up with AU”

Serita Smith, Coordinator, Advising Services

Serita Smith has a connection to Athabasca University spanning 28 years. Both of her parents worked at the university, and she’s worked at AU for more than 15 years. “I grew up with AU being so much a part of my life. I believe that had a significant impact on my decision to donate,” says Smith, who is a coordinator of student advising services.

“I have [also] been working with students from a service perspective for so many years, and I have had the rare opportunity to meet some of them face to face. I wanted to do something for them, because if it weren’t for our students, we wouldn’t be here.”

Smith has been donating to student awards for three years now. “I was really pleased that I could decide where my donations would be used,” she says. “I like the flexibility of that.”

For her, donating has a pay-it-forward feeling, especially since AU’s employee benefits have allowed her to pursue her own higher education without having to pay for the majority of the tuition. “Because of this, I can afford to donate to help someone else achieve their goals,” she says. “The thought that I can contribute, even just a little bit, to struggling students’ education means a lot to me.”

“I feel a sense of pride”

James D’Arcy, Registrar

James D’Arcy’s decision to donate to Athabasca University is a reflection of both his belief in AU’s mission to remove barriers to education and the opportunities he has received at AU because of that mission.

D’Arcy, AU’s registrar, completed his AU Master of Business Administration with the support of the university. “I incurred very little out-of-pocket expenses in the pursuit of my MBA, and I am grateful I was given that opportunity,” he says. “The MBA has strengthened my character, and it has definitely helped me in advancing my career.”

In addition to removing the financial barrier to his education, AU removed another barrier for him as well. “The MBA program [accepted] my wide range of managerial experience in lieu of an undergraduate degree,” he says.

As a result of his MBA experience, D’Arcy has allocated the majority of his donations to the university’s student awards program. “I feel a sense of pride knowing that my donations help others like me to achieve their educational goals.”

When the university fundraising campaign began in 2008, D’Arcy heard a member of the campaign committee refer to AU as a family, and that message resonated with him. “Having been a part of the AU community for several years, I could relate to that. I also thought that as a leader in a large department, it was an opportunity to lead by example. I've been donating ever since.”

“The ultimate in respect”

Dr. Judi Malone, Tutor, Psychology

With a 15-year association with Athabasca University, first as a student, then as a tutor and a member of the Board of Governors, Dr. Judi Malone knows a great deal about AU.

“This university is more than an institution or an employer for me. I was on the advancement committee of the Board of Governors when the campaign was first introduced, and it made sense to me. If I believe in asking others to support our mission, why not demonstrate that commitment myself?” she says.

Malone donates to student awards. “There are many important areas [to donate to], but awards make such a tangible and immediate difference in the lives of our students. Having sat on the Bryon Paege Memorial Award committee, I have reviewed student applications. I’m always in awe of their resiliency and strength. I know what a difference an award and monetary support can make.”

Participation in the campaign also fits with Malone’s values and reinforces her ongoing involvement with the university. “I support our vision to remove barriers that restrict access to and success in university-level study, and I see this as having potential beyond our individual actions. As Sartre said, ‘We must respect each other if we, as individuals, want to be as free as possible within a social order.’ Empowerment through education, through sharing and inspiring knowledge, is, for me, the ultimate in respect.”

“We witnessed lives being transformed”

Marilyn Wangler, Former Director of Marketing and Communications, Faculty of Business

Marilyn Wangler believes in giving back, especially to an institution that has meant so much to her personally. Wangler retired from her position as director of marketing and communications for the Faculty of Business in 2011. “While at the Faculty of Business, I witnessed, at a very personal level, the difference that Athabasca University made in the lives of our students and alumni,” she says.

“We watched careers being transformed, but more importantly, we witnessed lives being transformed. For over 11 years, I was privileged to be part of an organization that really made a difference ‘out there.’ It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Wangler says it felt great when she discovered that her donation had directly affected the life of one particular student, now a graduate, who was the first in her family to earn a post-secondary degree.

“I believe that the first person in a family who pursues post-secondary education will lead to the second, and the third, and the fourth and so on. I think it’s a great concept, and one that has so many beneficial domino effects for families and for society.”

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2012


Because of Athabasca University

Denise Blair was working on a marketing plan assignment for her Master of Business Administration degree when the idea came to her.

“Something just clicked,” says Blair, the founder and executive director of the Calgary Youth Justice Society and a 2010 graduate of Athabasca University’s MBA program. “In a very real way, everything I had studied came together in this idea.”

Her idea? A program she would eventually name In the Lead. “It’s a leadership program for young people who are commonly referred to as ‘at risk’ — teenagers who are engaging in high-risk behaviour. But really, these youth are ‘at potential,’” she says.

“I saw a program that was different than any other … What if we acknowledged [that these youth] have leadership capabilities because of their challenges and their ability to rise above those challenges? What if we’re overlooking young leaders with great potential simply because they’re not using their strengths in conventional ways?”

Blair envisioned a program where teenagers would be paired with adult coaches who would focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses, listen and provide support, and ultimately believe in them.

But that was only half the idea. The other half was to partner with a company that would give their staff a professional development opportunity to volunteer in the program as coaches. “I needed a partner — a business partner — one that saw my idea not just as a compelling community investment opportunity, but a company that was ready to engage in a meaningful way with their people and values,” says Blair.

That company turned out to be Cenovus Energy, which is investing both human and financial resources in the program for the next three years.

“The outcomes have already been well beyond what we’d hoped for,” says Blair. “In January, we held a graduation ceremony for our first group of young leaders, and I asked the coaches to send me a list of the gifts or sparks or strengths they saw in their young people — and I had to edit some of them down because they were so long. We read the list for each one as they called the young person up to the front. You would have thought you were at Harvard. It was amazing. There were so many people in tears.”

“I learned a lot, both personally and professionally, from being part of the program,” says Megan Marshall, a volunteer coach and a community program advisor for Cenovus Energy.

“I’ve been a mentor with other organizations, but the fundamental approach of this program — focusing on what is strong with youth, not on what is wrong with youth — was different and very appealing to me.”

“A lot of making that shift in thinking comes through the coach training that happens before you’re matched up with your young leader,” she says. “So for example, if someone has previously been labelled as really stubborn, [you learn how to] turn that into a positive — perhaps they’re actually very persistent.”

“[For me and my] young leader, it gave us a clean slate right from the beginning … It made me look at all her amazing abilities and potential right off the bat and eliminated any judgment that could have happened … And I think it created an environment for us where, because it was so supportive and encouraging and positive, a lot more trust could be created.”

Marshall says the program reinforced her listening skills and her ability to be flexible and think on her feet. And she’s carrying over these improved skills to both her personal life and her workplace interactions.

“The program supports leadership development for youth, but it also supports leadership development for the staff of Cenovus,” says Blair. “It’s a truly innovative partnership between the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds, and it was inspired by my Athabasca University experience.”

“Because of my MBA studies, I was able, for the first time, to develop a program through a business lens. And that made all the difference,” she says. “I used what I learned in marketing and ethical decision-making and human resources and leadership to really carve out what the program would look like. My MBA enabled me to transform my idea into a plan and then into reality.”

But more than that, Blair was inspired by receiving a full scholarship to complete her MBA. Without the Alberta Scholarship for Leadership in Community Service, a one-time-only AU MBA award made possible by a private donor and the Alberta Advanced Education and Technology Access to the Future Fund, she wouldn’t have been able to enrol in the program.

“From the moment I received the scholarship, I knew I wanted to pay it forward by applying what I was learning to making a difference in my organization and in the community,” she says. “It was never about what I could get with my education, but how I could give with my education.”

“One of the challenges for the MBA is tuition, which is equal to a lot of annual salaries in my sector,” she adds. “And for non-profit leaders, it’s an investment in your cause and your organization and making a difference in your community as opposed to furthering your own interest. There’s no salary increase after you graduate, as there would be in business.”

But Blair’s success with In the Lead demonstrates the creative and empowering possibilities that come about when leaders from the non-profit sector pursue an MBA. “If we build into the capacity of leaders in this sector, it also builds the capacity of these leaders to make a difference,” she says.

And in Blair’s case, that translates into making an incalculable difference in the lives of youth. “Some of the coaches in this program will be that one person who the young people will look back on and think of as the one who changed their lives,” says Blair.

“Because of Athabasca University, some kids who may not have made it are going to make it. I know their names.”

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2012


Investing in a healthy Alberta

This spring, four Athabasca University nursing students who live in central and northern Alberta received some extra recognition for their hard work when they were awarded $2,500 scholarships. The scholarships were created through support from the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and were given to students with a minimum GPA of 3.6.

“We’re delighted that the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation has recognized some of our most motivated, passionate nursing students with these scholarships,” says Dr. Margaret Edwards, acting dean of the Faculty of Health Disciplines at AU. “These students will be the nursing professionals that communities across central and northern Alberta turn to for health-care leadership in the future.”

Over 200 of AU’s 1,000 Bachelor of Nursing (BN) students live in central and northern Alberta, in communities large and small. The focus of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation on this region meshes well not only with the location of many of AU’s nursing students, but also with AU’s mandate, Edwards says.

“We strive to serve rural and remote populations both in Alberta and beyond, so it was extra fitting to work with the foundation on creating scholarships that would help our nursing students stay in their communities while they complete their degree.”

In Alberta, a bachelor’s degree in nursing has been the minimum educational requirement for working as an RN (registered nurse) since 2010. AU offers a Post-RN BN as well as a Post-LPN (licensed practical nurse) BN that prepares graduates to write the Canadian Registered Nurse Exam and apply for licensure as an RN. Two of the foundation scholarships were awarded to Post-RN BN students, while the other two were awarded to Post-LPN BN students.

“The investment from the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation has had an immediate, positive impact on our students, and it will have a long-term impact on the quality of health care services for residents of central and northern Alberta,” says Edwards.

“The foundation strives to demonstrate philanthropic leadership in the areas of youth, education, health and wellness,” adds Natalie Minckler, executive director of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation. “The scholarships we provided for students at Athabasca University couldn’t be a better fit. It truly exemplifies our efforts to work together and make northern Alberta a better place to live.”

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2012


AU’s new Hutchinson architecture award

Thanks to an endowment from Ralph and Janet Hutchinson, students in Athabasca University’s new architecture program have the opportunity to apply for a $2,500 student award.

The Ken and Janny Hutchinson Architecture Award recognizes the professional and academic achievements of students entering the architecture program at AU. Two awards will be given to architecture students each year, with the first set to be awarded this fall.

The award is in honour of Ralph’s brother Ken Hutchinson, a leading Alberta architect who has specialized in heritage architecture, leisure centres, and business and municipal projects throughout Alberta for the last 40 years. In all of his endeavours, he’s been strongly supported by his wife Janny.

“Ken’s had an outstanding career as an architect,” says Dr. Frits Pannekoek, president of AU. “He’s defined many public spaces and restored many heritage buildings, but most importantly, he’s been passionate about supporting both female and minority architects in establishing practice.”

With that in mind, the award’s selection committee will give consideration to gender and minority equity, but all architecture students are welcome to apply if they meet the basic selection criteria.

“It’s supposed to be diverse enough to allow people an opportunity to explore how architecture fits in today’s life and life in the future,” says Dr. Lisa Carter, dean of AU’s Faculty of Science and Technology. “I’m thrilled we’re able to offer this award for our students. We’re so fortunate to have the Hutchinson family contributing to the promotion of architecture at AU.”

AU’s architecture program, the first online architecture program in Canada, was launched in 2011 in partnership with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC ). Called a Post- Baccalaureate Diploma in Architecture, the credential provides an alternative work-study path to professional architect licensure in Canada. The university is also developing a Bachelor of Science in Architecture as the pre-professional component of the program.

“The online architecture program is key to our mission of removing barriers to learning,” says Pannekoek. “In partnership with RAIC , we’re helping to facilitate the entry of internationally trained architects into practice in Canada, for example. And with our use of innovative online teaching tools, the program has a unique approach for helping students understand and appreciate the many facets of architecture.”

For more information on the Ken and Janny Hutchinson Architecture Award, contact Dr. Lisa Carter, dean of AU’s Faculty of Science and Technology: lisac@athabascau.ca

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2012


Better writing, better health

Tololwa M. Mollel knows how to write good stories, and he’s passionate about helping others do the same.

Athabasca University’s writer in residence for 2011-12, Mollel works with students of all ages around the world to elevate the quality of their writing. He occupies what he calls “the middle ground somewhere between cheerleader and critic,” providing invaluable feedback that helps students hone their writing skills.

“Writing is always tough, and you do much of it in isolation,” says the celebrated children’s author and dramatist. “It’s also very personal. I can’t write for people, but I can offer the good, honest, supportive advice that’s required of any mentor.”

Funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts made it possible to launch AU’s Writer in Residence program in 2010, and Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden was the first author to hold the post. Continuation of those funds plus support from another community group is enabling Mollel to expand opportunities for even more writers.

Last September, ZoomerMedia committed to funding a new facet of the program that will engage people who have a lifetime of stories to tell: seniors. ZoomerMedia publishes Zoomer magazine for the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP), Canada’s largest not-for-profit association for people aged 45-plus and those who care for them.

“Writing is seen as a key to healthy aging,” Mollel says of the group’s interest in supporting this creative opportunity. “It’s a tool that can be used to support mental health as people advance in years. It’s a way to look back on experiences and relive life.”

In addition to helping more writers, expanding the horizons of the Writer in Residence program is also a way to build community, says Marilyn Dumont, a writing instructor in AU’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences who was instrumental in creating the program.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to partner with all kinds of organizations,” she says. “Writing offers value to people from age 22 to 82, and the Writer in Residence program is a great resource for writers, students and faculty.”

Still in development, the ZoomerMedia aspect of the program is likely to include in-person and online talks by Mollel, web-conferenced workshops, virtual space on AU’s e-Lab that will enable CARP writers to connect and create their own e-portfolios, and writing-focused articles and videos for ZoomerMedia online and print publications.

“Working with them lets me spread my wings and think about different forms of writing,” Mollel says. “I can see how powerful writing can be as you get older.”

To find out more about the Writer in Residence program, visit: athabascau.ca/cll/writer-in-residence.

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2012


Changes in reel time

Canadian film icon Fil Fraser likes to joke that “when I was making movies, we needed cameras the size of Volkswagens.” Indeed, much has changed since his 1977 drama Why Shoot the Teacher? took a top prize at the Canadian Film Awards (now known as the Genies).

"Nowadays you can buy a couple thousand dollars of camera and editing equipment and produce screenable material," says the Athabasca University adjunct professor and the creator of AU’s CMNS 610, a course that examines Canadian feature films and film policy. And, wouldn’t you know it, this area of Canada’s film industry — the government policies that try to boost it — is also seeing a major transformation.

"It was in the 1960s that the government started to develop film policies and funding programs. There was very little film production in this country before then," says Dr. Evelyn Ellerman, an AU associate professor of communication studies.

Today, she says, there’s a split in the industry between those who want government regulation and funding to continue and "the free market people on the other side who say it’s time to just back off and let the market look out for itself."

This is why Athabasca University, with funding from the Heritage Canada Interactive Fund, is launching the Canadian Film Online (CFO) project this spring. The CFO project is a destination for commentaries, essays, databases, maps and video interviews conducted by Fraser, all covering the history and current state of the Canadian movie industry.

It’s one of many tools stored in AU’s new e-Lab. The e-Lab is a virtual lab space where students can create and update portfolios, find peer support, take tutorials, participate in workshops and find free software tools — "just as you would go into a physical lab and open up a cupboard, and there would be tools that you could use for various experiments," explains Ellerman, the e-Lab’s director.

The CFO tool will be a continually evolving resource for anybody studying Canadian film — people will be invited to submit commentaries, interviews and film entries to the CFO editorial board on an ongoing basis.

The interviewees for Fraser’s CFO interviews include top broadcasting executives and professionals such as Richard Stursberg, former executive vice-president of CBC, and Norm Bolen, president and CEO of the Canadian Media Production Association. "We wanted to get that historical sweep of how changes in film policy have affected filmmaking in Canada, and these are the people who have been there, building it into what it is," says Ellerman.

"As we go along, we will be looking at younger and younger people, so that we get to the heart of the current industry, which involves a mix of digital media."

As part of the project, Ellerman and colleagues recently partnered with the Toronto International Film Festival to translate summaries of Canadian films into French for the festival’s Canadian Film Encyclopedia. A second partnership with Library and Archives Canada allows them to share information and add to the archives’ collection of over 1,500 full-length feature films. Fraser says this is especially important since funding cuts have limited the archives’ ability to track and locate films.

Fraser is optimistic about the Internet’s impact on Canadian film. Perhaps the only thing that hasn't changed in his lifetime is the U.S.'s lock on Canadian theatres, where nearly 99% of screen time goes to American films. “But it’s not about the big screen anymore," he says. "Hollywood owns the big screen, but now creative people can use technology that doesn’t cost very much and produce movies that are screened all over the world."

Visit Canadian Film Online at film.athabascau.ca or through Athabasca University’s e-Lab: elab.athabascau.ca.


Gift from the heart keeps passion for learning alive

William Janssen loved to learn. A self-educated pioneer and long-time resident of Woking, a small community in Alberta’s northern Peace Country, he was excited by books and reading, committed to making his community better and keenly interested in young people.


When Janssen — Willy to his friends — passed away in June 2010 at the age of 85, his will brought those passions together in a poignant and meaningful way. Athabasca University was one of several local organizations he chose to support, receiving a bequest of $50,000 to enrich scholarships and bursaries.

“He was always reading and learning and always encouraging his neighbours and the kids in his life to read more and learn more,” says Tara Friesen, AU’s manager of alumni relations and philanthropy. “He appreciated how AU’s distance learning model made it possible for people to stay in the community and continue their studies.”

Janssen was good friends with his neighbour Krista Schuett, and he asked that Schuett’s daughter, 12-year-old Emily, present his bequests to recipient organizations. His wishes were honoured at an AU student and alumni event on Dec. 1, 2011. “It was quite heartwarming,” Friesen says. “Emily talked about how important education was to Willy, and it was clear that AU was very much part of a larger passion for him.”

Janssen’s generosity is a prime example of how, with planning, one individual can support a lifelong passion and help future generations to share in it.

“These are gifts that truly come from the heart,” Friesen explains. “Bequest giving is a highly effective way to support the causes you believe in and to keep your memory alive. With advance planning, you can look after your family’s needs and also help organizations do their work.”

The process is relatively simple. It begins with conversations with family, a lawyer or financial advisor and, ideally, the receiving organization. AU, for example, can help with bequest wording to ensure that wishes are properly carried out.

“Planning your will can give you peace of mind,” Friesen says. “You know that everyone is taken care of, and you don’t need to worry about it. And you create a legacy. When you give to AU, your memory lives on in the accomplishments of the students who are supported.”

“The amount of money doesn’t have to be large in order to make a difference. Philanthropy is a word everyone can embrace.”

To learn more about creating your own AU legacy, contact Tara Friesen: tfriesen@athabascau.ca or 1-800-788-9041 ext.7319.

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2012

AU's Charitable Registration Number: #10673 5830 RR0001