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Foundation Family

Remembering Rhoda Friedrichs, historian and teacher at Douglas College

Portrait of a woman in a white shirt and a vest

The Rhoda Friedrichs Memorial Bursary was established in 2014 by family, friends and colleagues to honour the memory of Rhoda Lange Friedrichs, a gifted scholar and an inspired teacher at Douglas College.

Rhoda grew up in New York City, the only child of parents who fled persecution in Nazi Germany to build a new life in the United States. After completing a bachelor’s degree at Barnard College, Rhoda attended graduate school at Columbia University, receiving her Ph.D. in medieval history in 1974. During her studies, she met a fellow history student, Christopher Friedrichs. They married in 1970, and spent a year in Europe completing research for their dissertations. After Chris graduated from Princeton in 1973 with a Ph.D. in early modern history, they moved to Vancouver, where he had been appointed to a faculty position at the University of British Columbia. Rhoda taught in various programs at UBC before joining the History department at Douglas College in 1989. Over the next decades, as they juggled teaching, research, travel and family life, Rhoda and Chris shared conversations about history and much else over the dinner table with daughter Ellen and sons Jonathan and Jeremy.

At the College, Rhoda drew on her wide-ranging disciplinary knowledge and research to design and teach well-planned and thought-provoking courses in World history and European medieval history. As she once explained, her lectures provided students with “a clear framework to link trends and events” that otherwise might appear to be “an unconnected and daunting torrent of information.” A meticulous scholar with a particular research interest in the marriage patterns of noble women in late medieval England and France, her numerous conference papers and publications made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of medieval social and political history. She also shared her historical knowledge with the broader community, giving talks to diverse local groups and supporting the work of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.

Rhoda was a valued and respected colleague and effective mentor. Her strong ethical core, resilience, problem-solving skills, and humour shaped her work on departmental, faculty and college-wide committees, and contributed to the success of her two terms as Chair of the History department. Rhoda’s delight in her children and her grandchildren and her admiration and love for Chris as a husband, father, and scholar were evident to her colleagues, as was Chris’s deep love for Rhoda and his respect and support for her teaching and scholarship.

Throughout her academic career, Rhoda demonstrated her commitment to the value of a liberal arts undergraduate education. Students, she believed, were “interesting and enjoyable people to teach and work with.” She respected their intelligence, cared about their success, and encouraged them to excel, while understanding the struggle that students face in balancing educational aspirations with jobs and family commitments. Students in turn found her knowledgeable, enthusiastic, helpful, and fair.

Rhoda died of cancer in July 2014, just two months after she finished teaching her last course at Douglas College. In 2015, the College awarded Rhoda the posthumous designation of faculty emeritus in recognition of her twenty-five years of outstanding teaching, scholarship and service.

The Rhoda Friedrichs Memorial Bursary, which supports students in financial need, is a lasting tribute to Rhoda’s life and legacy, and her passion for helping students to achieve their dreams.

Douglas Alumnus Gives Back

“Be open and say yes to opportunities even if you think you may not enjoy them or think you may not be able to succeed. The experience could open doors you never imagined and take your career to places you never dreamed. You are far more capable than you think.” This is how Jayden Beaudoin, Douglas Music Alumnus (2005-2008) has lived his life and what has led to his musical success as a percussionist.

This spirit of adventure and positive thinking is something Jayden inherited from his mother, Marg Beaudoin, who has always been his strongest supporter and biggest fan. Marg was very generous and was always putting positive energy into the world. When Jayden’s mother passed away recently, Jayden spent a great deal of time reflecting on her life and her influence. She and her husband, Gene, instilled a valuable lesson in Jayden when growing up – “half of everything you earn goes into savings”. This allowed him to graduate from post-secondary without carrying a large debt. He recognizes others are not as fortunate and that post-secondary is expensive, so to honor his mother’s memory and her desire to make the world a better place, Jayden decided to create an endowed scholarship to recognize and support music students at the College where his music career began. He hopes the Marg Beaudoin Memorial Music Scholarship will relieve some of the financial stresses that students face so they can focus on their studies and the opportunities before them. This support will allow them to focus on the things they love and that bring joy to them and others. “Sure, I’d love to pay off my house sooner but at least I have a house and am living comfortably. I want to help others”; says Jayden. The scholarship will also recognize the academic accomplishments and commitment of students.

heashot of a women with blonde hair Jayden had dabbled in music all through high school and was part of a rock band. He really enjoyed music. His dad, Gene, was a drummer and they would often jam at home. One day, his dad suggested he try playing the drums (Jayden preferred guitar at the time) and the rest is history. He loved the drums and would play for hours every day after school. He knew he wanted to continue performing but his knowledge of music was limited. His mother suggested speaking with someone at Douglas College about what to do, so he did and he spoke with Bob Caldwell. Bob encouraged him to take lessons and audition at Douglas, suggesting that Douglas offered many positive experiences and stimulating environments. For Jayden, as someone who had never studied music, Douglas was less intimidating than the larger music schools. Jayden credits Douglas College for his success and for deepening his love and commitment to music. As Bob Caldwell suggested, the opportunities that presented themselves at Douglas were varied and vast and the guidance and support from the instructors at Douglas were invaluable. Never once did Jayden see himself in musical theatre but an opportunity arose while at Douglas to perform in the production “Grease” at Theatre Under the Stars. This performance carved a path for future engagements and his studies at UBC and Western University.

Jayden’s career is a long way from the guitar playing rock performer he once aspired to be but there are no regrets because his career has been a fulfilling and rewarding one. He is currently with the Royal Canadian Artillery band in Edmonton, AB. Jayden's adventures have taken him from his home province of British Columbia to perform across Canada and abroad with groups such as the Vancouver Metropolitan Opera and Royal City Musical Theatre; the Windsor, Hamilton, Thunder Bay, London, and International Symphony Orchestras; as part of the military bands of the 15th Field Artillery, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Ceremonial Guard, and Royal Canadian Artillery; and with the Bathurst Chamber Music Festival, C2 Entertainment, and many more. The military has taken him to London, England, to play for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness Prince Phillip at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and on Horse Guards Parade, as well as in France for the commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. For a full biography of Jayden, please visit his website (www.beaudoinpercussion.com).

Thank you Jayden for supporting music students and being a leader in our Douglas community!

Susan Diewert Kwong Was Inspired to Give in Memory of Her Husband Gordon.

Old photo of a couple standing next to a uhaul truck

The Dr. Gordon L. Diewert Scholarship was established, in 2008, by Susan Diewert Kwong, a Founding Member of the Douglas College Administration Staff, and her second husband Peter Kwong, to honour the life of Susan's first husband Gordon Leonard Diewert. Gord died tragically on April 28, 1981 when an impaired driver hit a curb, became airborne and landed on top of their Volvo when Gord was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Gaglardi Way and Lougheed Highway, killing him instantly.  The goal of this scholarship is to promote the responsible use of alcohol and foster the prevention of drinking and driving. Gord achieved more in his short life than most people could ever dream of doing and this is why his story is so worth sharing.

Susan and Gordon began dating while attending New Westminster Secondary School (NWSS) together and fell in love in Prince Edward Island during a Young Voyageurs grade 12 school trip.  At NWSS Gord was already a star.  He was an honour roll student, selected as the Most Promising Quarterback in British Columbia and awarded the Columbian Trophy.  He played baseball (pitcher) up to the minor leagues, and was involved with the community as a life guard, a little league coach and umpired at both the little league and minor league level.  

In 1973, a year after getting married, Gord received his Bachelor's Degree, from the University of British Columbia, and was offered a scholarship at the University of Waterloo (UW).  Susan left her job at Douglas College and they moved to Ontario. Gord earned his Master of Science Degree from UW, in 1975, and completed his PhD, in 1979, with a Minor in Psychology and Educational Psychology, at the University of Wisconsin. His research interests were focused on how motor learning and control varied with age, and how that could aid people with sensory challenges such as: blindness and/or deafness, movement memory in developmentally challenged children and the interaction of fitness and psychomotor performance. 

When Gord was killed, he was working in the Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Sciences at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and had just been promoted to the position of tenured professor the week prior. He was a founder of the University's Institute for Human Performance, conducted research in the Psychomotor Learning and Performance Department and taught Statistics, as well as, courses in Psychomotor Learning. He cared about our seniors and worked with the Gerontology Department at SFU where he was involved with a proposal for a Gerontology Research Centre. On behalf of the Institute for Human Performance, Gord completed an evaluation of the physical abilities required of firemen and was about to introduce an employment screening program for the Vancouver Fire Department. He also had 13 publications in scholarly journals and 5 additional publications under review, including a book.  

Gord was given many grants during his career, including a $24,000 grant from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council. He made every effort to bridge the gap between the university and general public.  Even though Gord had accomplished so much he never forgot the needs of others. He built equipment for the SFU ski team; organized annual golf, curling and bowling tournaments, as well as, after parties for the students and Research Assistants in Motor Learning.  He was also involved in aerodynamics, working conditions in Northern BC lumber mills and built equipment for the Vancouver Planetarium to measure reaction times under varying circumstances.   

Gord was only 30 years old when he died but he was already a prolific scholar. In addition, he will forever be remembered as a loving son, husband and dedicated pet owner to Ginny, a rescued cat from the SPCA, and a new purebred Vizsla puppy, Raedar.  He was a genuinely caring, good person and citizen.

Peter and Susan continue to grow Gord's legacy under the umbrella of the Diewert Foundation and other corporate enterprises. They had this to say:

To all of us who have suffered a tragic and unexpected loss, whether it be a loved one, dear friend or pet, they will always live on in our memories and forever be an important part of our lives. We believe that everyone who enters our world leaves distinct footprints behind that tell a story about who they were and what they did.  We all leave a legacy in our own way. Although we should look back and remember those who have left us, we must also look forward and assist with making positive changes that, where possible, can prevent the loss of other precious lives. For all that Gord could have and would have accomplished let us bring much needed awareness to responsible drinking and remember that it is socially acceptable, at any age, to have a designated driver.