March 8, 2023

Women leading the way: 8 donors and volunteers who make a difference at UCalgary

We celebrate changemakers on International Women’s Day

Women play critical roles across UCalgary campuses, as faculty, staff, researchers, students and leaders. And behind these women are donors and volunteers whose passion and generosity contribute to their successes — and help shape our university and community. Here are just a few of those making a difference, sharing why they give back and what it means to them. 

Courtesy Nannette Ho-Covernton

Nannette Ho-Covernton

"I embraced the university because it embraced me, setting me up for success in my career. When I started giving to the Schulich School of Engineering, supporting women in STEM wasn’t initially my focus, but it’s something that’s become more and more important as I’ve matured. I want to be a role model for others who come after me, like my parents were for other immigrants after they established themselves in Canada. If you can see it, you can be it!"

Nannette Ho-Covernton, BSc (Eng)’87, supports her alma mater as a monthly donor and volunteer, advocating for inclusivity in engineering and diverse educational activities for students. In 2019, she received the Schulich School of Engineering’s Diversity and Equity Alumni Award.

Courtesy Wynne Chisholm

Wynne Chisholm

“Each of us, through our actions, creates the world we want to live in. My mom was an active volunteer and community organizer throughout my childhood and so I grew up believing that it was not only important to give back, it was the expected norm. My first foray into giving back at UCalgary was as a volunteer member of the alumni association. Fast-forward several decades and my family has had the opportunity to help the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine grow and stand out on the world stage. Creating lasting legacies, whether big or small, is an expression of our hope for the future.”

Wynne Chisholm, BA’79, is behind one of the largest gifts in UCalgary history. Her family’s donation of W.A. Ranches established the biggest outdoor classroom in North America and is transforming teaching, learning and outreach experiences at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

Courtesy Catherine Heggerud

Catherine Heggerud

“I embraced Calgary when I moved here more than 20 years ago, and UCalgary is a part of what makes this community strong. There’s this idea that each one of us is a small part of a big system — and when we give, the whole system benefits. Having participated in the Mathison Hall Brick x Brick campaign [supporting the construction of the faculty’s newest building] and walking through the new space as students use and enjoy it, I can see how every little bit has made a difference.”

Catherine Heggerud is an associate professor (teaching) with the Haskayne School of Business and a monthly donor. Before joining the faculty — she previously held leadership roles with UCalgary’s HR and IT teams — she volunteered in the classroom with undergraduate students. 

Courtesty Joanne Cuthbertson

Joanne Cuthbertson

“It makes me happy to spend time with young people. There’s something that happens when you spend time with them, especially when you’re in your own more mature years of life. Even if I have other things going on in my life that are challenging, being around students always motivates me. It’s an intuitive reaction — these young people are the future and you just know that they matter. It’s pretty special to be a part of their journeys.”

Joanne Cuthbertson, BEd’73, Hon. LLD’11, is a longtime donor and volunteer whose support pre-dates and extends beyond her term as the university’s 11th chancellor. Among her many contributions, she helped develop UCalgary’s Scholars’ Academy Program and served as a mentor to some of the university’s highest-achieving students over the years.

Courtesy of Safia and Nabeela Nathoo

Safia and Nabeela Nathoo

“I believe that when one has the capacity to give back to their community, either as a volunteer, donor, or some combination of the two, that they should. My sister and I have gotten to where we have through the generous donations of others, both in time and money, and that should not be forgotten. Giving back is a way to pay it forward to the next generation.”

— Nabeela Nathoo, BSc’09, PhD’14, MD’17

“Our family has always advocated to give back when we can to show our gratitude and appreciation for support we’ve received. When we decided to create a scholarship, we were especially drawn to supporting graduate students, as we both have graduate degrees and observed that scholarships at the graduate level generally are not as readily available as those for undergraduate programs.” 

— Safia Nathoo, BSc’07, MSc’09, MBA’14

Sisters Safia and Nabeela Nathoo, who share six UCalgary degrees between them, created the Nathoo Family Graduate Scholarship in 2016. In keeping with their own dedication to community work, the scholarship seeks to reward grad students also involved in leadership and volunteer activities.

Courtesy Lauren Bell

Lauren Bell

“I see the university as a pavilion of promise. When you’re here, you’re at a crossroads of the past, present and future. When I think about all the people I’ve met here and the diversity of campus — all the visionaries and champions who’ve set and met mighty goals — you can’t help but be inspired. Being in that environment supports my own ambitions and values.”

Lauren Bell served on the University of Calgary Senate and has supported a number of initiatives across campus, including student awards, public health and cancer research. She is also a member of the OWN.CANCER campaign cabinet, supporting the new world-class Calgary Cancer Centre.

Courtesy Rhonda Bakusko

Rhonda Bakusko

“I feel a debt of gratitude to the University of Calgary. I’ve had an incredible career and a big part of my success is the foundation I received at the Haskayne School of Business. Giving back is a way for me to pay it forward, to ensure this university that had such a positive impact on my life thrives and grows, so it can do the same for future generations. And living in Toronto now, being a UCalgary supporter is a way for me to maintain my ties to the Calgary community.”

Rhonda Bakusko, BComm’97, has been donating to the University of Calgary for more than 25 years. Her gifts to the Haskayne School of Business have helped create unique student experiences and supported new teaching and learning spaces.

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