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Today was the deadline for me to give our communications guru, Carly, the content for our bi-monthly newsletter. It is now 18 minutes until the end of the business day and I admit, I am still stuck.
I have thought long and deeply on how to appropriately and thoughtfully choose the right words for our May newsletter. The newsletter in which we had planned to do another big promotion of our free simple Will and Testament offer. But in the midst of this paradigm-shifting global pandemic, I just don’t know how to get the words and feeling right. Talking about Wills means talking about death, which ties into our COVID fears, which is taboo. Right? Wrong? I don’t know anymore.
In our March newsletter, we proudly announced our partnership with the great people at Canadian Free Wills Network, providing an extra perk for our alumni, donors and closest champions of Douglas College. This initiative was launched this year to gift 50 free simple Will and Testaments for those over 55 years old in our 50th Anniversary year. After the initial announcement, we were pleasantly surprised by how many of you that reached out, wanting to learn more or to opt in.
And here we are just two months later. We still have the same free Will offer available to those nearest and dearest to us. We still want to be able to gift that sense of peace and reassurance that comes from completing a Will. But, frankly, I find myself stuck; I just don’t know what is correct to say after how much our world has changed in the last 8 weeks. I don’t know the right words to say or not say. And for those who know me, they know that a shortage of words is not something I usually struggle with.
Like many of you, I find myself with a longer list of questions than I have answers on a daily basis. Do I shout from the roof tops that we still want to gift our champions the chance to put a simple Will in place? Should I avoid mentioning anything about the offer in fear that I conjure up inappropriate images of death and fear that we are inundated with daily? Do we stick with our plan to celebrate May as the traditional Leave a Legacy Month? What are the words I should avoid? Will I offend someone? Who needs to proof this letter to ensure I am not off brand? What day is it? What are my colleagues in other organizations doing? Are we still allowed to talk about Wills and end-of-life legacies? When did I wash my hands last? How do I say it correctly? Is now the right time?
I just don’t know.
I don’t know and I am learning that it is okay. This is something I have found myself pondering and repeating to myself over the last couple of months when confronted with yet another question or fork in the road that there is no map for. “I don’t know, but we will figure it out,” is something my family and colleagues hear from me often.
I am working from home with my partner and four small children, thinking about how I can protect them, us and those we cherish most in the world. And I know that many of you are making the best decisions you can daily in this uncertain world; that you have the same concerns for the health and wellbeing of your loved ones. In this new world there is so much we don’t know, but we ARE figuring it out – together. So I will wear my uncertainty on my sleeve, right beside my good intentions, and forge forward.
What I DO know, is that in addition to our family, friends and colleagues, we are all more concerned than ever for the well being of those we have been called to serve at Douglas College – our students. They are our children, single parents, former youth in care, recent immigrants and young adults striking out on their own for the first time. They are why we are here. I do know that our community of alumni, donors, students and staff feel deeply and are intrinsically interwoven into our campuses – both physically, virtually and metaphorically. And for this I am both proud and grateful.
So here I am at the end of the business day, and it appears I have approached my newsletter submission the same way I do working with donors – just being authentically me, a little bit awkward but full of good intent on behalf our students and community of champions. No Douglas branding, no buzzwords, no shiny content. In the uncertainty we face now in all of its forms, please know that the Douglas College Foundation and Alumni Relations team are working harder than ever to ensure we love on you and our students!
For those who have suddenly been forced to contemplate their lives and navigate unfamiliar territory of this new COVID landscape, we are still here with a small gift. If having a simple Will in place brings you a sense of peace, we hope you will take advantage of this chance to write a simple Will and Testament and document the legacy you want to leave in the world; from us to you in celebration of Douglas’ first 50 years. Just shoot me an email and we can chat further. For those that are too raw right now to consider end of life planning, I deeply respect that, but I ask for the grace to talk about it and that you still continue to love us as you already do.
Ugh, 4 minutes left until my deadline and I think this really is my submission.
At Douglas we are lucky to do the work we do – creating pathways for students to do what they love and be good it. Thank you for the role you play in that for the last 50 years and the next 50 in front of us.
Stay well and hopeful.
Manager, Philanthropic Relations
604 218 2657
Douglas College’s Veterinary Technology (VTEC) program is the only one of its kind in the Lower Mainland. Each year up to 30 new VTEC students graduate and move on to work in numerous veterinary clinics and animal rescue organizations throughout the province. These Douglas College graduates are so in demand that most students have a job offer upon graduation.
Last year, because of the generosity of an anonymous donor, 25 of our VTEC graduates received a special award that pays the costly fees for the students to write their mandatory Veterinary Technician National Exam, helping our graduates start their new careers on the right foot. Not only are our students being supported by incredible philanthropists, they are also generating some of the top marks in North America. We are so proud!
At the Douglas College Foundation, we love helping our donors match their passion with our students. It was this anonymous donor’s passion for animals and belief in Mahatma Gandhi’s sentiment that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” that was the catalyst to create these awards supporting Douglas VTEC students.
In 2010, that spark of passion meant that the first two students were the recipients of this award; in 2019, 25 VTEC students received the awards! This animal and student loving donor hopes that her example will inspire others who are able to give. “I hope they get behind a cause they are passionate about and then stick with it,” she says.
As we celebrate our 50th anniversary year here at Douglas College, we get to reflect on our fortune to have such generous donors and bright students, both who inspire others and lead by example. Thank you!
Esteemed scholar and researcher Dr. Rhoda Friedrichs always had a passion for history, even as a young child.
“She had carefully saved her favourite history books written for children because they’d meant so much to her,” says Christopher Friedrichs, Professor Emeritus History at UBC, of his late wife.
Rhoda grew up in New York City, the only child of parents who fled Nazi Germany to build a new life in the United States. She received her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and PhD in medieval history from Columbia University. During her studies, she met fellow history student Chris Friedrichs and they married in 1970. A few years later they moved to Vancouver, where Chris had been appointed to a faculty position at the University of British Columbia. After taking on a full-time role at Douglas College in 1989, Rhoda quickly became a successful and respected member of the History Department at Douglas, where she taught for 25 years.
“When I started teaching at the College, Rhoda was Chair of the History Department,” says Dr. Gail Edwards, a friend and colleague of Rhoda’s. “Rhoda was a patient and encouraging mentor for new faculty, and supported other women colleagues as together they sought a work-life balance in their careers. She had a real impact on her colleagues.”
Two months after teaching her last class at Douglas, Rhoda died of cancer. After her death in 2014, her family, friends and colleagues worked with the Douglas College Foundation to create a fitting legacy that would support the students Rhoda had spent much of her career teaching. These funds created the Rhoda Friedrichs Memorial Bursary Endowment, from which a portion of the investment income is distributed each year to one or two students who have taken at least one course in history.
“We originally operated on the assumption that donations would come in for the bursary and they would be spent down and that would be the end of it,” says Gail. “But reports from the Foundation demonstrated ongoing support for the fund. I thought that maybe it would be possible to raise $30,000 to permanently endow it.”
Gail’s idea quickly gained steam. The Friedrichs family – including Chris and the couple's three children, Ellen, Jonathan and Jeremy – as well as Rhoda’s friends and colleagues were eager to support the fundraising initiative. In 2019, enough funds were raised to permanently endow the bursary. “I think this achievement was possible because people knew Rhoda and they knew that the money was going to support students in need,” says Gail.
Rhoda was not only a respected faculty member, colleague and friend but a favourite professor amongst students as well. Shortly after becoming a full-time faculty member, Rhoda introduced a second-year medieval history sequence that quickly became a popular set of courses. “Rhoda mentioned that she’d look around the classroom on the first day and see a lot of students she recognized,” says Chris. “Students were always eager to learn from her again.”
Throughout her time at Douglas, Rhoda developed a fondness for her students and admired those who had to balance their studies with work or family commitments. “She recognized that students at Douglas College were achieving education but not always under easy circumstances. She was committed to the idea that equitable access means that everyone gets a chance to succeed,” says Gail.
“Being able to give these students a boost with some financial help is exactly in the spirit of Rhoda’s tremendous respect for Douglas College students,” adds Chris. “So I was thrilled when Gail proposed endowing the bursary. Due to Gail’s initiative, year after year Douglas students will benefit from this bursary in Rhoda’s name.”
After her death, Rhoda was posthumously awarded faculty emeritus status by Douglas College, in recognition of her outstanding work as a scholar, mentor and instructor.
Pictured: Douglas College colleagues Elmiro Argento, Jeff Schutts, Gail Edwards, Rhoda Friedrichs and Frank Leonard celebrating Frank's retirement from the History department in 2009.
As Douglas College celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year – a milestone that coincides with what would have been Chris and Rhoda’s 50th year of marriage – it is incredibly appropriate that the 2020 winter semester also marks the first year students will receive the newly endowed Rhoda Friedrichs Memorial Bursary.
For many years to come, Rhoda’s legacy of excellence and passion for education will live on not only in her friends, family and colleagues, but the students she continues to support.
Visit the Humanities and Social Sciences bursaries page to learn more about the bursary itself, or contribute to Rhoda’s legacy by giving a gift today.