July 14, 2023
Growing up, Professor Deborah Buszard always considered Poppy Irvine her fun aunt, the one who told jokes and built sand castles with her at the beach. Fluent in four languages and a rapid-fire typist, Poppy was also a huge proponent of education.
“My aunt was never married, she always worked two jobs, lived extremely modestly and would save every penny,” says Professor Buszard, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor of UBC. “She was a great supporter of my education, as well as my cousins’ and my sister’s. She didn’t care what we went to school for as long as we were passionate about it. She really was a wonderful influence and someone I greatly admired.”
With financial support from her aunt Poppy, Professor Buszard was able to complete her undergraduate degree and PhD in the UK, and went on to become Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UBC’s Okanagan campus. In 2014 she decided to pay it forward through a gift to UBC to establish an award for students. When it came to choosing a name, only one came to mind—the Poppy Irvine Award, a special way to honor her aunt.
The Poppy Irvine Award is for students at UBC Okanagan in any undergraduate program who demonstrate financial need and are in good academic standing. Professor Buszard says the decision to support students was an easy one. Holding a leadership position allowed her to see first-hand how challenging it can be for students to fund their education and the important role awards play in their success.
In 2022, shortly after returning to UBC to take on the role of Interim President and Vice-Chancellor, she reinvested in the award in support of UBC’s FORWARD for Students Affordability initiative.
Luke Atherton received the Poppy Irvine Award in 2021. A mature student who hadn’t been in school for over a decade, the award helped Luke complete his Bachelor of Arts, and he plans to continue his education with a Master’s degree starting this fall.
“It was a great surprise to receive the Poppy Irvine Award,” says Luke. “While pursuing my education I am also supporting my three kids, so any financial support is a huge relief and I was so grateful to receive this award.”
Professor Buszard says hearing Luke’s story is a wonderful reminder of why she gives to UBC—to alleviate some financial burden for students and to provide UBC students with the opportunity to be the best they can be. By doing so, they have the power to gain more out of their university experience and make important contributions to the world after graduating.
“Everyone has a different capacity for giving, and every gift to UBC makes a difference,” she says. “My own gratitude towards my Aunt Poppy led me to give to UBC, and I look forward to award recipients one day giving back in whatever way they can as part of this cycle of gratitude. There truly is nothing better than helping someone receive their education.”