Paying it forward – and building community in Kelowna

UBCO graduate Blago Hristovski
UBCO graduate Blago Hristovski

The summer of 2017 broke new records in BC, but not for good reasons: the forest fire season recorded the largest total burnt area, largest number of evacuees, and the largest single fire in BC’s history. It’s something that was close to home for recent UBCO graduate Blago Hristovski, who was raised in Kelowna and who graduated from Kelowna Secondary School.

Blago was encouraged to pursue a career in applied science by his family and most of all his high-school physics teacher, Jim Strachan, and was drawn to UBC Okanagan after learning about the research opportunities available on campus. But like many undergraduate students, Blago had been concerned about affording higher education. In his final year at UBCO he was the recipient of the Dr. Gordon Springate Sr. Award in Engineering. Presented to UBC Okanagan engineering students who contribute to their communities, the award helps to enhance the Okanagan region and continues the cycle of goodwill in Kelowna.

“The Dr. Gordon Springate Sr. Award in Engineering is truly an investment in community,” Blago says. “I’m a strong believer that my generation is going to help everyone’s future. This award is providing students with opportunities to focus on their studies today so we can create a better outlook for tomorrow.”

Kelowna resident Dr. Gordon Springate Sr. paid it forward throughout his life. He understood the value of strengthening communities—he continually gave back, supported families and youth, and helped bring the people of Kelowna closer together. A one-time Dean of the Division of Applied Studies at Okanagan University College (now UBC’s Okanagan campus), Dr. Springate was also a leader in local Kelowna churches, Scouts Canada, Canada Power and Sail Squadron, the Canadian Red Cross and many other organizations throughout the Okanagan. Inspired by his generosity, his son Gordon Springate Jr. and his family decided to pay forward Dr. Springate’s legacy of community support by creating the Dr. Gordon Springate Sr. Award in Engineering.

Blago completed his Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus with the help of the Springate award, and is now pursuing his Masters of Applied Science degree at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. He has chosen to focus his work on unmanned aerial vehicles.

“This field has a lot of new roles to play in society. Unmanned aerial vehicles can execute many operations safer and more efficiently than traditional methods—particularly when it comes to fighting forest fires, which is something I hope to focus on in Kelowna,” he says. In this way, in the future, Blago hopes to pay forward the Springate Family’s generosity by using his research to give back to his hometown.

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