“You need to be resourceful when living on a farm,” says Henry David Currey, a UBC alumnus who graduated with a BASC (Agricultural Engineering) in 1950. “When things break down, you have to fix them, and that’s how it was with me.
It was this combined background in engineering and agriculture that would allow Dave to flourish as an entrepreneur. The former President of Ronco Pole Structures Ltd., Ronco Fencing Ltd. and Princeton Wood Preservers Ltd. has made generous donations totalling $1.4 million to support student awards at UBC.
Dave is a great believer in education. Born in 1926, he grew up on a mixed wheat and dairy farm in rural Alberta, and spent nine years learning in a one-room schoolhouse. During high school, Dave’s education was interrupted when his four older brothers were called away because of the war, leaving him to help out on the farm. It was only in 1945 that he was finally able to complete high school, when the family rented out the farm and moved to Surrey.
Although no one in Dave’s family had previously attended university, he met a classmate who planned to enrol at UBC and was intrigued by the idea.
“I didn’t know what all this university stuff was, really,” says Dave. “I spent a little bit of time working in lumber mills and various things, which didn’t give me much to work towards, and so I decided—yes, I will join him.”
Dave recalls his time at UBC as “a working relationship.” He lived in a trailer at the corner of Wesbrook and Agronomy and cooked all his meals over a single hotplate. He studied hard, and during the summers he had to work to ensure he had enough money to return the next year.
“You can’t do that today,” says Dave. “We were very fortunate. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to make this gift.”
After graduating, Dave became a franchisee with a small company, which he eventually bought out. By applying what he learned at UBC, he was able to build up successful businesses that thrived for over 40 years.
Dave’s generosity and willingness to pay it forward has allowed UBC to establish four new student awards, one of which has been named to honour his late wife, Birgit, and daughter, Ingrid (BA 78, MEd 96).The Birgit and Ingrid Currey Award in Nursing, the Dave Currey Award in Applied Biology, and the Dave Currey Award in Forestry are awarded to students who demonstrate a combination of academic merit and community leadership with preference given to those with demonstrated financial need. The Currey Family Bursary, named for the full family including son Marv (BSc 73, MBA 89), provides support for students from any faculty who have financial need.
“The support provided from these funds is intended to help deserving and committed students continue with their education,” says Dave. “This is important for people to contribute and grow. The ability to earn enough to allow continuous study no longer exists. This was a way to help.”