Family Bursary Supports Okanagan Students

Photo Courtesy of the Connaghan Family
Erma and Susan Connaghan. Photo Courtesy of the Connaghan Family

There are many reasons people choose to support UBC. When Erma Connaghan decided to create a bursary it was a decision born of her and her family’s passionate belief in education, but it also reflected Erma’s personal experience as a student more than 60 years ago.

“I received a scholarship in high school,” explains Erma. “I hadn’t really considered university before then. I was looking at training, probably nursing. That was the tipping point for me, and it took my life in a different direction.”

Today both Erma and her daughter Susan are UBC graduates. In fact, every family member old enough for post secondary education holds at least one UBC degree—and in some cases two or three.

“For me, attending university is about so much more than job training,” says Susan (BSc 1984). “It’s a place that broadens your horizons. You can meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, and learn things you wouldn’t otherwise learn. There are opportunities to experience diversity and to embrace it. It helps us become better global citizens.”

The family’s significant history with the University began with Charles Connaghan (1932-2003). Charles was president of the Alma Mater Society in the 1950s and VP of Administrative Services in the 1970s. As an administrator, he worked hard to ensure UBC remained accessible to students. For his lifelong service to the University, Charles was recognized with the prestigious Great Trekker Award in 1995.

“I went to UBC in the 50s,” explains Erma. “Back then, it was a more close-knit community, and that’s where I met Charles. He was involved in campus affairs, and I was doing social work. I had taken my social work degree at UBC. Eventually our three children went there as well.”

Although Erma acknowledges that it’s been a long time since she’s been in school, both she and Susan feel that affordability continues to be a roadblock for many bright students.

“It’s hard to get an education for the sake of education,” says Susan. “There’s a lot of pressure for kids today. They have to think about a job as they’re getting an education. I think by alleviating that just a little bit, we can open some doors that otherwise might not be opened.”

Thanks to Erma and her family, a bursary of $2000 is now available to students with a declared major in the arts or sciences at the Irving K. Barber School on the Okanagan campus. The Connaghan Family Bursary will alternate annually between arts and sciences, and preference will be given to those with the greatest assessed financial need.

“UBC was the centrepiece of our lives growing up in Vancouver,” says Susan, who is a practising lawyer and mother of two. “And now I’m so pleased to have the campus here in Kelowna. My kids play sports there, and they go to camps there. UBC has really become a part of my family community again.”

“A little bit of help can mean a lot to students who are facing a tough time in university,” adds Erma. “It can also encourage those who may otherwise not consider university.”