Meet the donors

Just as a single spark can ignite a roaring flame, philanthropy is the catalyst that starts something special at UCalgary. Meet the donors who are sparking positive change by empowering students, advancing research, driving innovation and more.

For many University of Calgary supporters, Giving Day is prime time to donate, with matching funds making their gift go twice as far. As we prepare for this year’s campaign (returning April 18), get to know a few of your fellow donors who make the most of Giving Day. 

Ian Minnifee

In various membership capacities at UCalgary -- Chancellor’s Circle, UCalgary Alumni Association board of directors, Senate -- Ian Minnifee, BA’94, has contributed countless hours of volunteer time.

And he’s also generous on Giving Day, helping to support three funds last year, alone - Students’ Greatest Needs, Dinos men’s basketball awards and the Faculty of Social Work’s practicum grant for travel to Tanzania.

"I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of very influential and successful Calgarians and have watched them assess where they might want to invest some of their hard-earned dollars," says Minnifee, naming Richard Haskayne, Hon. LLD’97; Geoffrey Cumming, BA’74, LLD’16; and David Werklund, Hon. LLD’12. 

"I look at their faith, their interest in supporting this institution, and say, ’Well, they’ve done their due diligence, and they believe in this institution like I do.’ That’s a reason that I’ve contributed. I’ve seen the impact this institution has on our city, our province and country."

Leanne Wu

Giving to UCalgary just makes sense, says Dr. Leanne Wu, BSc’03, MSc’10, PhD’20, who’s built a strong connection to the institution.

"The university has just gotten its hooks into me," says Wu, assistant professor (teaching) in the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Science. 

"UCalgary’s really given me my career in different incarnations. Even when I was (working off-campus) in industry, that resulted directly from an internship. A lot of my identity is really wrapped up in what the university is now, so giving is a chance to pay it forward."


A regular contributor on Giving Day, Wu remembers her first donation -- a 2017 gift in the name of Susan Lucas, a retiring departmental administrator. "Just to note her remarkable career; she made a real difference to so many people," says Wu.

And Wu continues to show her support: "I like thinking that we’re making a difference for students in different ways."

David Holub

In David Holub’s mind, education is essential. After attending UCalgary, majoring in geology, he went to law school at Osgoode Hall, then earned his master’s degree at the London School of Economics. He has taught conflict resolution at Mount Royal University for more than 30 years, along with business law at UCalgary and a variety of continuing-education courses for organizations ranging from the public school system to The City of Calgary.

"Education has always been very important to me, as it has and continues to be one of the most important ways that we can transform our world," says Holub, BSc’85. 

"Personal education, development and growth are empowering, and that is why it resonates so strongly with me to give to an institution like UCalgary."


A member of the UCalgary Senate since 2019, Holub shows his appreciation every year on Giving Day - and it is more than the event’s gift-matching potential that appeals to him. "I believe that Giving Day clearly demonstrates the power of collective acts of giving," he says.

Heather Smith-Watkins

While working in the Fine Arts department of the Faculty of Arts, Heather Smith-Watkins, BCC’10, and her colleagues hatched a plan - selling handcrafted goods, such as jewelry, knitted hats and scarves, at the annual holiday sale to raise money for student scholarships. Their first attempt, 15 years ago, generated $600 - and its popularity grew from there.

Smith-Watkins retired in 2019, "And I thought that was the end of it." However, she returned to UCalgary - this time filling a role at the Haskayne School of Business - and naturally resurrected the crafts sale. Thanks to a suggestion from Pamela Aranas, Haskayne’s associate director of development and alumni engagement, she started making her contributions to Haskayne’s impact fund on Giving Day to take advantage of the gift-matching opportunity.

"Students always need money and we are always looking for ways to support student success. This is my small contribution to that cause."

Elaine McKiel

Dr. Elaine McKiel, PhD, began teaching at UCalgary’s Faculty of Nursing in 1981. By the time she retired in 2008, she had enjoyed a wonderful career, which included work at UCalgary’s Qatar campus. "To that extent, I feel some obligation to pay back the university for the opportunities," she says. "The University of Calgary was good to me, so now I want to be good to the university."

McKiel has accomplished that by staying connected - she’s in her fourth year on the executive board of the University of Calgary Retirees Association - and by mentoring nursing students. And every Giving Day, she supports the Holy Cross School of Nursing Alumni Bursary  and the Retirees Association Award for Indigenous Students.

"I grew up valuing education. But, once you go to university, you realize that education is not free. It costs money. So, it’s important to support education."

Thomas Lui

For Thomas Lui, BComm’06, giving to UCalgary comes in a couple of forms. On a regular basis, he makes donations. And, as he did during his undergraduate days, he offers his time to the school.

"Whether it’s hours or dollars, it’s currency. I see them interchangeably - just being able to help. It shows how important the cause is."


These days, Lui volunteers with the Management Advisory Council of the Haskayne School of Business. "It’s interesting now to be in a position to provide insight and experience as we shape the next generation," he says.

To financially show support, Lui appreciates Giving Day, taking advantage of the gift-matching opportunity for three straight years. "Being an accountant at heart -- and knowing your dollar gets stretched further -- obviously helps," says Lui, adding that the awareness surrounding Giving Day helps to ensure his contributions. "The intention is always there, and Giving Day focuses that commitment."