Group photo of Tom, Tim, Jenn, Julie and Joseph

Supporting students in need on Giving Tuesday

November 25, 2022
Author: Jenn McGarrigle

The impact of giving for one employee

Giving Tuesday is a global movement to encourage people to support worthwhile meaningful causes during a season that features holiday sales and consumerism. This year, VIU’s Giving Tuesday campaign runs from November 15 to 29, 2022. The VIU Foundation aims to raise $350,000 to support students through initatives like the Give a Meal program and emergency bursary fund. 

In honour of Giving Tuesday, I wanted to share my own giving story in the hopes that it inspires others! 

Why I give: Jenn McGarrigle

My history of giving to the VIU Foundation started in 2016 after my loving mother Sheila Marshall lost her battle with cancer. Sheila was a high school science teacher and when I was searching for a way to honour her memory, the idea of a scholarship in her name was top of mind.

She was the type of teacher students kept in touch with years after they graduated. To keep her students engaged, she would blow stuff up in the lab and take her them out in the field as often as she could. Given how passionate she was about student success, creating an award that would ensure students know her name and contributions to the world of teaching was appealing.

My first donation was made on Giving Tuesday to take advantage of the matching dollars. While my family and I were narrowing down the criteria for the award, I ended up chatting with Dr. Tim Goater in the Biology department, who is now retired and an Academic Emeritus Professor. The next spring, he was part of the team deciding who won the Biology awards and he let me know when the group chose a student to receive my Mom’s award. Not long after that, I received an invite, along with my Auntie Julie and Uncle Tom, to a special award presentation event at the Applied Environmental Research Lab. The student, Joseph Monaghan, was working in the lab and myself and my family were invited there to present the award to Joseph and have some celebratory cake. Joseph continues to work in the lab, now as a PhD student.

Listening to Joseph tell his story and hearing about the impact the award would have on him really validated my decision to start the award. After that I was hooked and the following Giving Tuesday, my family established an endowment so that the Sheila Marshall Memorial Scholarship would be given out in perpetuity.

Sheila Marshall plaque

Once the endowment was established, Tim went a step further and commissioned a plaque for my Mom’s award. Student names are engraved each year and a framed description of the award with my Mom’s picture lives right next to it for all to see in the Biology student lounge (known fondly by many as the Fishbowl).

I asked Tim why he does so much to help with scholarships like mine and he gave me permission to share what he said:

There are several reasons why I do what I do to help out with our Biology scholarships, and you can relate to each of them. Let me see if I can put them into words:

First, losing a loved one is a time of incredible sadness. I have seen first-hand how helping the family of the loved one with the creating of a memorial scholarship helps them with the grieving process. They know that their loved one’s memory endures forever in a very special way in the outstanding young people recognized by the award.

Second, I have seen how students and colleagues who are all grieving along with the family are really helped out by helping to make a difference and are super proud to contribute to the scholarship, either directly or via fundraising activities.

Third, losing a beloved colleague or a wonderful student has been a time of sadness for me as well. This also came to the fore when I lost my Dad. Helping to create a scholarship to honour the memory of the person helps me cope with my loss. All the memories of the person come flooding back each year when the awards are given out, and everyone remembers. While we all still miss the person, my sadness has turned to pride and we all can share happy memories.

After six years, I have been able to watch Sheila Marshall Memorial Scholarship recipients do all sorts of cool things, such as pursue graduate studies, win national tournaments, get into veterinary school and much more, and they all carry with them a little bit of knowledge of how special my Mom was. 

I continue to give on Giving Tuesday every year, both to my family’s endowment but also to other initiatives the Foundation is focusing on. For example, during COVID, I donated to the emergency bursary fund. It felt good knowing I was helping to be part of the solution for struggling students, some of whom had lost their jobs suddenly and unexpectedly.

When I give, I also remember how much receiving awards and bursaries helped me out when I was a student. It meant I didn’t have to take out a student loan when I went through university, so when I joined in the workforce, I was able to experiment and try different jobs that didn’t pay well but were great experiences that led to other opportunities.

Working at the university where my scholarship is given out allows me that deeper connection with the recipients, especially in the job I do here. Myself or my colleagues have profiled many of their accomplishments over the years, so I get an inside look into their passions and achievements. And of course, that thank you letter they each write is a great reward in and of itself too.

Sheila Marshall Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship honours the memory of a devoted mother, grandmother, daughter, aunt, sister, friend and scientist – Sheila Marshall. Sheila started her teaching career in various schools in Ontario and Alberta before moving to Port Coquitlam, where she established herself as an influential and devoted science teacher at Terry Fox Secondary School. Her former students remember her as the teacher who pulled stunts like blowing stuff up in the lab and dressing up as a witch and making things bubble and boil out of her cauldron – all in the name of showing them how fun and cool science can be. Sheila’s daughter, Jenn McGarrigle, has worked in the Communications and External Affairs department at VIU since 2016 and, along with her family, initiated and contribute annually to this scholarship. The $1,000 annual scholarship is awarded to a third-year VIU Bachelor of Science student majoring in Biology in recognition of excellence in botany, ecology, chemistry and potential for independent research – all of which were life-long passions of Sheila Marshall. Through this scholarship, she continues to change lives.

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