Legacy Gift Creates Travel Award for LFS Graduate Students

Dr. Ursula Abbott. Photo: Martin Dee
Dr. Ursula Abbott. Photo: Martin Dee

UBC emerita Dr. Ursula K. Abbott wanted to give back to students—and that’s just what she’s done. Through her estate, Dr. Abbott bequeathed a $1.2 million gift to benefit graduate students in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS).

Born in 1927, Dr. Abbott was one of the first women to enrol in the Faculty back in the 1940s. Her lifelong fascination with poultry and their development began as a grade school encounter with a flock of chickens. She would go on to earn her BSA and MSA in Poultry and Genetics at UBC before completing a doctoral degree in California, where the majority of her work and research would take place.

Even before completing her PhD, young Ursula was appointed Principal Technician in the department of animal husbandry at UC Davis. With her doctoral work completed, Dr. Abbott became an Instructor and quickly rose through the ranks to be named Chair of the Department of Avian Sciences.

As a specialist in two fields—poultry breeding and embryology, she developed several undergraduate courses in developmental genetics as well as fertility and hatchability. Her graduate course in embryology and teratology was extensive and thought provoking, and Dr. Abbott enjoyed a near legendary status due to the passion she displayed as a teacher.

After a long and distinguished career, Dr. Abbott retired in 1992. Over the years, she earned numerous honours including a Guggenheim Fellowship in Paris and Edinburgh. She had acted as National Science Foundation Program Director for developmental biology in Washington, DC, and participated as a panel member for NSF, USDA, and Howard Hughes.

Dr. Abbott’s work took her all around the world, and she recognized that travel was important to students, particularly those trying to excel in their fields.

When she passed away in 2012, $1.2 million of her estate was used to augment the Ursula Knight Abbott Travel Scholarship in Agricultural Sciences, which allows LFS students to travel to locations where they can gain firsthand exposure to the ideas and techniques important to their research.

Through this generous gift, Dr. Abbott is still advancing the field of avian sciences, but more importantly, her deep love for learning and research will continue to reach and inspire generations of students.