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Yesterday I was invited to attend a ceremony to celebrate Don Wehrung’s contribution to the International Student Initiative at UBC. It was an incredible ceremony and all the speakers did a fantastic job of highlighting what a great man Don truly is.
Don is the person who was asked to head the International Student Initiative when it started back in 1996. The goals of the program was to increase the number of international students at UBC. Don has been incredibly successful, around 10 percent of UBC students at the moment being international. One of the most important contributions that Don made (at least as it applies to me) is starting the International Leader of Tomorrow (ILOT) Award . He lobbied the university for money to provide what has become the most generous international scholarship program in Canada. At the ceremony Karen McKellin the Associate Director of the International Student Initiative told the Audience that Don risked his job to provide international scholarships at UBC. Some of the most important people at UBC including the Dean of Arts and VP Academic both told stories of how Don personally fought for funding on a case by case basis for ILOT winners. The dedication, care and selflessness that he has shown concerning less privileged international students is remarkable.
Don’s actions and initiatives have shaped almost every aspect of my life. The staff that he hired and the recruitment program that he developed have directly influenced how I see the university and what I have experienced. Damara Klaassen who came to my school in Ghana and showed me all the pretty pictures that sold me on UBC. Badre Hassani, who on my first day at UBC made me feel so completely at home, taking me into his office, serving me tea and even giving me an international calling card so that I could contact my parents. Karen McKellin who on my third day alone in this strange country/city/campus helped me to transport all of my possessions from one side of campus to the other. All these people, Don’s staff, their kindness and caring created a love and awe for UBC that lingers with me still.
The ILOT award that I was lucky enough to receive has allowed me to come here, to form this great life that I have. At UBC I have found new passions, friends and interests, all of which are incredibly dear to me. Everything that I own, everything that I do, all the relationships that I have made would not have been possible without Don, his staff and their never-ending commitment to my success. I lack the necessary eloquence to truly describe just how grateful I am to them for all that I have. That gratitude is there though, in overwhelming amounts for not only me, but also for the many other students that he has helped.
Thank you Don.