Lifelong contributors to UBC establish the “largest ever endowed scholarship”

At $9 million, the Friedman Award for Scholars in Health is now the university’s “largest ever endowed scholarship,” according to a UBC press release

The scholarship was first established with a $3 million donation from the Constance Livingstone-Friedman and Sydney Friedman Foundation, and has now been expanded by an additional $6 million donation. 

The latter gift was largely founded on the $5.2 million sale of Dr. Constance Livingstone-Friedman and Dr. Sydney Friedman’s former home. Aside from being considered a “historically important house” and a “Modernist gem,” the property also holds extra relevance to UBC as it was designed by the first director of the UBC School of Architecture Dr. Frederic Lasserre. 

Following this endowment, the scholarship now sets to support two to four graduate students or medical residents for a six-month or longer study. With funds ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, the scholars are required to travel beyond Western Canada and “engage with a leading figure or group.”

“Drs. Constance and Sydney Friedman believed that a full, well-rounded education requires students to learn from different perspectives and learn from different cultures,” read the scholarship’s application. “The emphasis is on the quality of the learning experience through mentorship of a leading scholar or institution. This is not a vehicle for funding research projects.”

Kaylee Byers, one of the five Friedman scholars this year
Kaylee Byers, one of the five Friedman scholars this year UBC Public Affairs

This year, five scholars were chosen instead, with funds ranging from $25,000 to $37,000.

Kaylee Byers, a PhD candidate in the department of interdisciplinary studies, is one of them. She plans to spend six months with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Health Centre to study diseases transmitted between animals and people, since the country has been “highlighted as a hot spot for emerging infectious diseases, like Ebola and SARS.”

At the same time, there will also be a major focus on surveillance systems for wildlife health — something that Byers has never done before.

“The Canadian cooperative is an amazing wildlife surveillance program, but it’s very natural science based,” she said. “What the Sri Lanka centre is trying to do is to incorporate that and have a social aspect on top of that as well. They are very engaged in understanding how to get communities involved in surveillance because communities are the first step of surveillance program … I find that really fascinating and a huge gain in knowledge for me.”

Byers believes that this particular aspect will further complement her current research on rats and animal-transmitted diseases in the Downtown Eastside. 

“There’s a PhD student starting in September who’s going to creating a wildlife surveillance program for rats in Vancouver,” she said. “We’re looking at way to do that so we can say where do we have the most rats and are there more of them over time? Right now, we get asked all the time, but we have no way to say. We don’t know.”

Overall, Byers finds the scholarship to be an “exceptional opportunity” with potential for a “transformative learning experience.” Her trip to Sri Lanka begins in January 2018. 

Other contributions

Besides the Friedman Award for Scholars in Health, the Friedman’s also gave a lifetime of contributions to the university. 

Starting with their work as founding members of the faculty of medicine and the department of anatomy in 1950, they taught at UBC for over 30 years until their retirement in the 1980’s. Within this timespan, they also “published more than 200 research papers” and “won numerous awards for their service, teaching and research,” according to UBC press release.

In 2012, following the death of his wife, Dr. Sydney Friedman donated their collection of works by the celebrated Haida artist Bill Reid to UBC Museum of Anthropology. This collection is worth over $500,000 and contains eleven pieces of jewellery, a print and “a historical Northwest Coast bracelet by an unknown artist.”

In the same year, he also created the Constance Livingstone-Friedman and Sydney Friedman Foundation, which now funds the Friedman Award for Scholars in Health as well as the Friedman Travel Award. Overall, UBC has received over $11 million from the Friedman’s. 

Dr. Sydney Friedman passed away in 2015. 

“These scholarships will provide recipients incredible opportunities to expand their research internationally and bring that knowledge back to UBC,” said UBC President Santa Ono in the press release. “Constance and Sydney Friedman were pioneers that helped propel UBC into the research university it is today. I want to thank the Friedman Foundation for ensuring that legacy will be preserved and enhanced in perpetuity.”