New $300,000 endowment pledged to improve student access to education

Author: 
Lisa Weighton

Barj Dhahan is grateful to have had access to something his mother always dreamt of for herself—formal education.

“My mother never had an opportunity to go to school,” says Dhahan, a philanthropist, Royal Roads University Fellow, and founder and chief executive officer of the Sandhurst Group of Companies. “There was no school in the village she grew up in in India, let alone a school for girls.”

He credits his philanthropist parents, Budh Singh and Kashmir Kaur Dhahan, for inspiring his belief that we all have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to education.

In their honour, Dhahan and his wife Rita have committed a $150,000 donation to Royal Roads to create the Budh Singh and Kashmir Kaur Dhahan Award. The bi-annual student award will provide financial assistance to underrepresented students, such as single mothers, international or Indigenous students. The university will match his donation, bringing the total endowment to $300,000.

“My parents made sure my four sisters and I went to college,” he says. “They’ve always believed that education is the best pathway toward creating equality, fairness, opportunity and social justice. So that’s where the inspiration for this award came from.”

His late father founded Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust, a not-for-profit organization in Punjab, India. It operates an elementary and secondary school for 1,800 students, a nursing hospital and an addictions detox and rehabilitation centre.

From a young age, Dhahan learned to “live with open hands”—a lesson in generosity that’s stuck with him.

His top giving priorities focus on education, health and community development.

Dhahan launched a bursary for BC high school graduates in 1991 and in 2016, he spearheaded what became a $400,000 Centennial Scholarship Fund for Indigenous students at the University of British Columbia.

Dhahan hopes this new award will make it possible for recipients to earn a degree that otherwise may have been out of reach.

“With a market relevant education in today’s economy, graduates will be able to earn reasonable salaries and benefits so that they can support themselves and their family, and through that, make an economic and social impact in their own communities, in our province and in our country,” he says.

In his charitable work in Canada and India, Dhahan says that when women have access to education, he’s seen a positive correlation in the health of their families and communities.

“Women have been underrepresented in every sector of the economy, and in a small way, this is an attempt to bring about positive change,” he says.

This year you’ve already helped raise more than $700,000 in new student award commitments. It’s not too late to give. All donations made before Dec. 31, 2018 will be included in the Power of One initiative to make a life-changing difference for students. 

Donate now toward the area of the university that means the most to you, or get in touch with us to find out how you can set up your own fund.