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Lloyd Axworthy, President of the University of Winnipeg

Steve Kroft, outgoing President of the Jewish Foundation

Joe Wilder, President Elect of the Jewish Foundation receives Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. He will become President in June

Crowd at luncheon


by Rhonda Spivak, Jan 16, 2012

At the annual Jewish Foundation luncheon on Nov 22,  Lloyd Axworthy, President of the University of Winnipeg spoke about his vision of the University as part of a down town of the city that is "renewing itself."

As Axworthy said, "Community is the place where people prevail." He spoke of the fact that in his view a downtown university must be inclusive, "must be open to all those in the community," and not be "elitist." It must be a place where people of different ethnic backgrounds can feel that their own "identity, culture, and history receive recognition."

Regarding the physical aspects of the U of W Campus, Axworthy mentioned the ambitious campus and community redevelopment plan, that the University commenced in 2007, which was the result of extensive campus and community consultations. The plan embodies a holistic approach to campus and community development that breaks down barriers between the university and its surrounding neighbourhood.

Axworthy referred to the existence of the Asper Centre of Theatre and Film, which includes two new acting studios, film studio, prop shop, six rehearsal rooms, office space, two film editing labs, film equipment check-out and storage, dimmer room, and a state-of-the-art flexible studio theatre (120-180 seats) with full green room facilities. 

He also referred to the Buhler Centre, one of downtown's signature buildings at the corner of Portage Avenue ,and Colony, which gives the message that the University and downtown Winnipeg are " a place to do business." The historic $4 million dollar gift from John and Bonnie Buhler to The U of W supported the building of the Centre and provided financial support to business students with special scholarships. The U of W has consolidated its entire Faculty of Business and Economics inside the Buhler Centre which includes state-of-the-art classrooms, computer labs and meeting spaces. One million out of the $4 million created the Buhler Knowledge Access Fund to provide ongoing business scholarships within the Faculty of Business and Economics to outstanding students and those in need, including single parents and those with lower incomes.

In his talk, Axworhty outlined the make-up of U of W's student body, where "close to 30% come from new Canadian backgrounds, and 12% are aboriginal."

Regarding the aboriginal community, Axworthy quoted statistics which indicate that three quarters of urban aboriginals feel that they are negatively perceived. He spoke of that fact that we have an aboriginal population with a "rich culture", where "50% don't graduate form grade nine," and that this is a "wasted human potential."

As a result, Axworthy emphasized that the University of Winnipeg must "work with inner city schools" who will work with young children "to say that university is part of their horizon."

Axworhty spoke of an Opportunity Fund program that gives young men and women from low income new Canadian families or aboriginal families monetary "credits" in their accounts when they get certain scores in a variety of subjects during high school. The University gets donors who will fund this so that these students get credits in their University account such that have "about $2700 in their account when they want to start first year university."

According to Axworthy, there are 1000 students form low income new Canadian families or from aboriginal families who are coming to University through this "Opportunity Fund."

Axworthy noted that surveys have shown when these young adults are asked what they want, their answer is "education."

In her remarks at the luncheon  Marsha Cowan, CEO of the Jewish Foundation laid out why she believes the future of the Jewish Foundation as the voice of Jewish philanthropy is a bright one.

"In the last 48 years, more than 3,000 members of our Jewish community have chosen to express their philanthropic desires through the Foundation," Cowan said.

Their generosity has allowed us to amass an asset base of $75 million, which makes us the second largest community Foundation in Manitoba. What this means is that over the years we have distributed 30 million dollars to charitable organizations," Cowan added.

"The fiscal strength of any foundation is based on two key factors: market performance and donor enthusiasm. We all know that the market has been volatile since the downturn of 2008, but we are weathering this storm and we all expect calmer times ahead. On the second factor – donor enthusiasm – we have never wavered. I have worked as a volunteer and as a professional for many years in our community and I am always amazed by the generosity and passion I see," she noted.

Cowan said that there are three highlights in particular that bode well for the future:

"First is our ongoing commitment to donor empowerment – our willingness to help donors contribute in ways that are most meaningful to them. An example is donor participation in our new Fund Match Initiative – a matching money program to help organizations grow their endowments. Another example is our successful Women’s Endowment Fund. We recently announced that we were seeking 50 donors to become “Builders” of the Fund by December 31 – our launch toward $2 million in assets in that fund. I am proud to say that we are only a handful of donors away from our goal. If you have questions about either program, please do not hesitate to call me. I would be happy to discuss ways in which you too can participate.[emphasis added]"

"A second highlight that bodes well for the future of the Foundation is the phenomenal success of the Endowment Book of Life project. Each year, we get commitments from donors that they will leave a bequest to the Foundation in their wills. We thank these donors by publishing their personal life stories in the Endowment Book of Life online and in hard copy at the Asper Jewish Community Campus. We have now surpassed 700 signers. It’s a remarkable achievement for a community of our size.[emphasis added]"

"Finally, I am optimistic about the future because of people. Not just donors, but volunteers. Organizations like the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba – and indeed all not-for-profit organizations – do not function without sleeves rolled up at events, dedication at the committee level, and talent in the boardroom. I am honoured to work with such remarkable volunteers.[emphasis added]"

Cowan also thanked Steve Kroft for his dedicated work in leading the Jewish Foundation over the last year and a half:

"Steve has driven the Foundation forward this past year and a half with his exceptional commitment and his drive to make everything we do even better.

The new President of the Jewish Foundation is Joe Wilder who has recently  been awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.