Strong donor support bolsters U of A research, student opportunities

Donors contributed $168 million in 2018-19, supporting more than 700 research projects and more than 3,000 students.


Wendy Jerome enjoyed a fulfilling career as a pioneering sports psychologist, professor and Olympic-level coach, but if it weren’t for one person’s caring and support, her life would likely have turned out very differently.

Jerome was in her third year of university, struggling financially while working and going to school without any support from her family.

Where donations go

$82 million for research
Donors advanced research and discovery, and helped attract talented faculty.

$41 million for programs
Donors enhanced teaching, experiential learning and student research opportunities.

$39 million for student awards
Donors reduced financial barriers for students and helped them achieve their potential.

$6 million for facilities
Donors transformed campus through new and enhanced buildings, labs, libraries and learning spaces.

Maurice van Vliet, the dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, was aware of her situation and encouraged her to apply for a $200 bursary, which allowed her to finish university.

“I will never forget that day,” she said. “It was a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. Even today, I can just feel the relief.”

Jerome, who graduated in 1958 with a bachelor in physical education, attributes her career success to a network of supportive mentors.

“I was lucky to have people who cared about me when I had no self-esteem and no support at home,” she said.

After graduating from the U of A, she returned to her high school to thank the teachers and principal who had also encouraged her.

“One teacher said to me, ‘Do the same for someone else.’”

And so she did, by setting up a bursary to help U of A students facing financial barriers.

Individuals like Jerome, along with corporations and foundations, contributed $168 million to the University of Alberta this year, the second highest annual total in the university’s history. More than 3,000 undergraduate students were helped by a donor-funded bursary or scholarship in 2017-18, the most recent data available.

Thanks to Jerome’s bursary, kinesiology student Eric Gwilliam has been able to focus on helping others. He came to the U of A to study adapted physical activity with the dream of one day helping people like his sister Kari, who has cerebral palsy, lead a fulfilling, active life––no matter what their impairments might be. But paying the bills hasn’t been easy.

“Getting a bursary was a huge relief,” Gwilliam said. “I have so much gratitude for what Wendy has done. It really hits you when that generosity impacts you directly.”

“I see it every day,” said David Turpin, president of the university. “Because of our donors, more students have extraordinary learning experiences and our researchers have greater capacity to tackle complex problems. Donor support changes lives and advances discovery—now and in the future.”