Why I give

On Giving Day, and every day, UCalgary donors are united by meaningful personal stories rooted in passion for igniting change in the world

Before she passed away in the fall of 2016 at the age of 62, Margaret Rosso spoke with her son about her desire to create a legacy rooted in helping students. It was hardly an out-of-character final wish; Neil Rasiah had spent his life watching his mother shine as a devoted high school teacher (most recently at Bishop Grandin) and, once she retired, pouring her heart into volunteer work with kids all over the world.

“My mom was a very expressive, loving person — she loved teaching and she loved helping others,” says Rasiah, who is currently in the final stretch of a PhD in neuroscience at the Cumming School of Medicine; he starts med school in the fall. As his mother fought the final stages of cancer, Rasiah and his family worked with her to come up with a picture of the kind of emerging cancer researcher they wanted to help.

“It was really important to my mom to create an award that would assist a student who was interested in creating balance in their life,” says Rasiah. “She would have wanted to know they were doing well academically, but it was just as important to her that they be engaged with the world and finding happiness in other things, too.” 

Last year, Rasiah had an opportunity to meet a recipient of the Margaret Rosso Graduate Scholarship in Cancer Research — Jahanara Rajwani, a young graduate student who impressed him with her passion for research and her zest for life. She spoke at a fundraiser organized by Rasiah and his fiancée — a hockey game at Winsport that raised more than $20,000 for Giving Day. The funds pushed the scholarship into endowment status; it will be awarded annually in perpetuity.

“I know first-hand how meaningful it is to receive a scholarship — it builds confidence and the money really helps,” says Rasiah. “It’s meaningful to me to know I’m part of helping a fellow student. My mom would be proud of that.”

I know first-hand how meaningful it is to receive a scholarship — it builds confidence and the money really helps. It’s meaningful to me to know I’m part of helping a fellow student. My mom would be proud of that.

Neil Rasiah

'I give because I have great memories'

When Don Clague, BSc’83, walked into his first-year chemistry class at UCalgary, he was astounded to see more students in one room than comprised the entire student body at his hometown high school: “And then I see this little guy way down at the front talking into a microphone, and I realize: ‘We’re no longer in Kansas, Toto!’”

That was 1979, when Clague was a 17-year-old undergraduate from Rocky Mountain House. His geoscience class was taught by Dr. Don Lawton, PhD, a professor of geophysics in the Faculty of Science’s Department of Geoscience. “He was such an inspirational professor that I stayed in earth sciences,” says Clague.

Clague retired in 2018 after a 35-year career in the oil and gas industry. One of his fondest memories as an undergrad is forming a study group with three other students. “We helped each other survive and become successful in our academic studies,” he says, noting that all four became geophysicists in Calgary. “Industry is all about working together in teams — the university helped prepare me for that.”

Clague remains actively engaged with the university through his involvement as a member of the Schulich Industry Advisory Council and the Faculty of Science Dean’s Circle.

“We couldn’t be prouder to call Don one of our alumni in the Faculty of Science,” says Dean Lesley Rigg. “Don gives of himself through volunteerism, leadership and financial support for students and research — he’s always first to step up whenever there’s an opportunity to get engaged.”

For many years, Clague and his wife, Kathy, have donated to UCalgary student scholarships. Last year, they contributed to both the Faculty of Science and the Schulich School of Engineering, including contributions to Innovation Fellowships, the Geoscience Field School program and Precision Action Centre research.

“I’m grateful for what my university education did for me and my family,” Clague says. “Our city and our province need a strong university to educate more people to spur innovation and to help diversify and strengthen our economy.”