In the late 1980s, armed with a degree in economics from the University of Victoria, Leanne McConnachie could not have predicted how dramatically an estate gift to UBC would change her life.
“I got into the technology sector, helping start-ups develop business plans, which led to jobs with BC Tel and other tech companies,” she says. “The late-90s internet boom was a roller coaster. Very exciting, but a bit unpredictable as well.”
As companies were merged, acquired and dissolved in the dot-com boom, Leanne began thinking about where she might take her career next. She considered her love of animals, and found that UBC’s Animal Welfare Program was a great fit.
The Animal Welfare Program at UBC was established in 1997 with the objective of improving the lives of animals through research, education and public outreach. The program was founded in part through an estate gift from Doreen Margetts, who died in 1994 after a distinguished career as a horsewoman and breeder of thoroughbreds.
Animal welfare programs are available in only 1% of the world’s universities. The UBC program attracts graduate students from across the globe to conduct research on ways to improve the lives of farm animals, companion animals, wild animals and research animals. Faculty members are respected international leaders called upon to advise on animal welfare issues and serve on influential national and international committees. Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Animal Welfare Program is the many graduates who have gone on to influential positions where they promote the welfare of animals in business, education, government and the animal protection movement.
Today Leanne is the Director of Farm Animal Programs for the Vancouver Humane Society. She spearheads the Chicken OUT! program that aims to phase out the use of inhumane cages for egg-laying hens. “My degree gives me the expertise I need to be effective in my work. Even today, years after I graduated, I can consult with faculty members at UBC on any issue.”
“Doreen Margetts will never know how much her gift to UBC changed my life, both personally and professionally,” Leanne says. Ms. Margetts will also never know the significant impact her gift has had, and will continue to have, on the lives of countless animals worldwide.
Taking things full circle, Leanne has decided to make a gift in her will to benefit the UBC Animal Welfare Program. “The movement benefits tremendously from the UBC program, from the research they do, from the quality of the faculty members. I’d like to help someone in the future make the decision I made and change their career without worrying so much about the financial cost of returning to school.”
Leanne knew she had found the right place for her research. “The program has ties to world-renowned experts, so I could consult with leaders in this field,” she says. “Also, because the program is small you can really communicate with professors. We had lunches every week to share information. I really felt part of a team.”