In her twenty-year tenure as a history professor at Okanagan University College (the predecessor to Okanagan College), Dr. Sylvia Janet Russell breathed life into bustling classrooms, transforming them into vibrant hubs of knowledge and inspiration. Now in a fitting tribute to her legacy, an anonymous $40,000 gift will establish a bursary fund in her honour.
The Dr. Sylvia Janet Russell Memorial Fund will provide bursaries to students who have fulfilled the graduation requirements for Okanagan College’s Associate of Arts diploma - with a particular emphasis on History or Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and will be proceeding to another public college or university in British Columbia to further pursue studies in one or all of those fields. Award recipients will be selected based on academic achievement and financial need. This opportunity is open to students at all Okanagan College campuses.
“I gave this gift to honour her memory. She would have loved for her legacy to be helping deserving students pursue their education,” says the donor. “Sylvia was a deeply committed teacher, respected by her colleagues and beloved by her students who donated a bench in her honour when she retired.”
Dr. Russell retired from Okanagan University College in 2005 and passed away in 2006, but her legacy lives on for those who worked closely with her.
“Sylvia was a remarkable person. She was engaging and passionate and a beloved mentor to me,” says Nancy Holmes, a friend and former Okanagan College professor, who currently teaches at the UBC Okanagan. "She taught me that teaching is about more than giving information to students. It’s about helping them to understand the significance of that information. That learning has stayed with me throughout my career.”
The gift’s donor says the bursary is being established to support History and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies students to honour Dr. Russell's strong passion for both subjects. Dr. Russell served on the Provincial Status of Women Committee and advocated for integrating Women's Studies into other subjects at Okanagan University College. Notably, her course ‘Russian Women from 800 to Present’ was hugely popular.
"The bursary fund embodies the spirit of academic collaboration and empowerment that Dr. Russell championed throughout her career,” says Olivia Sullivan, chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies department at Okanagan College. “By supporting students in History and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, this bursary fosters interdisciplinary engagement and encourages future generations to follow in Dr. Russell's footsteps."
"We’re grateful to the donor for her generous gift. It’s going to have a meaningful impact on students’ lives,” says Helen Jackman, executive director of Okanagan College Foundation. “Bursaries like this one make education more accessible and empower students to reach their full potential as future leaders and change-makers.”
More information on the Dr. Sylvia Janet Russell Memorial Award, including how to apply, can be found at www.okanagan.bc.ca/financial-aid-and-awards
Those inspired by Dr. Russell’s legacy are encouraged to contribute to the bursary fund. Each gift will provide support to deserving students, having a positive impact on their lives. Please contact Sasha Carter, Development Officer, at [email protected] for more information or to donate.