“My father used to say, ‘I am who I am because my great-great grandmother crossed herself with two fingers,’” says Alexandra Volkoff. “It meant she was one of the old believers who were persecuted in Russia. When liberation came, she understood that education was important. She taught herself to read using the Bible, and she taught her family to read. Everyone in the family since then has been
aware of the value of education.”
As an alumna who graduated in 1971 (BA), Alexandra feels that UBC has been a part of her life from first to last. In fact, the Volkoff history is so entrenched with the University there’s even a street named after them on campus. Volkoff Lane was named to honour Alexandra’s father, Dr. George Volkoff, a distinguished theoretical physicist and second Dean of Science at UBC—the first was her mother’s brother.
“My father came here as a penniless student,” says Alexandra. “And my mother and her older brothers also went to UBC. That’s where my parents met. All my siblings and cousins have attended. We grew up close to campus— it was our playground, and now I am retired and live on campus.”
As a student, Alexandra excelled academically and earned a scholarship that allowed her to go abroad to study in her third year, an experience she says opened her eyes to other cultures and ways of thinking. She also wrote for the official student newspaper—the Ubyssey, which later led to a stint
as a correspondent in Iran.
“I always planned to leave something to the University,” says Alexandra. “When it was time to create my gift, I thought long and hard about whether I would contribute to an existing scholarship or create my own. There are so many gifts that match a variety of interests, even several established by my family. But in the end, I decided to create my own.”
Alexandra will establish and endow two awards that reflect her personal passions—opera and international learning— using funds from her life insurance as well as a gift in her
“My financial planner advised that leaving a life insurance policy would result in a much more substantial gift that would provide ongoing support to students. It was a painless
way to create a significant gift, and I encourage others to consider it.”
The Alexandra Volkoff Award in Opera will be presented annually to an outstanding singer studying opera in the Voice & Opera Division at the School of Music while the Alexandra Volkoff Global Citizenship Award will be available to students participating in international service learning programs at the University.
“I have always believed that there are only three things you can give children,” says Alexandra. “That’s love, food, and education. The rest is irrelevant.”