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"I'm just an ordinary guy who happened to be lucky"

Terry Flannigan's humble philosophy made him a star fundraiser. Now, he and his wife, Mary Jane, are giving back to UBC Okanagan.

Mary Jane and Terry Flannigan

Few individuals have left as indelible a mark as Terry Flannigan in fundraising for higher education.

With a career spanning over five decades, Terry’s journey began in 1972 at Grant MacEwan Community College in Edmonton, where he pioneered the establishment of their first foundation. Fast forward to 1991, and Flannigan found himself at Okanagan College, later becoming an integral part of the formation of UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Even after retiring in 2007, his legacy continues. Terry and his wife of 64 years, Mary Jane, donated $25,000 to UBC Okanagan—a contribution that was matched by UBC. Their gift will create a permanent endowment to support students training to become elementary teachers, creating a lasting impact on the community and future generations of educators.

“Mary Jane and I are pleased with that. She taught kindergarten through grades one and two,” says Terry. “The two of us have been in education all our lives.”

Terry was recruited by then UBC president, Martha Piper to launch the fundraising program for the new campus. He had previously worked under Piper’s leadership at the University of Alberta, where they had successfully orchestrated a campaign that raised over $200 million.

“I thought I was retired, but Martha Piper—the best president I ever worked for—had different plans.”

Throughout his career, Terry championed planned giving through estates and wills, recognizing the transformative impact such commitments could have on institutions. “I think that’s one of the ways that institutions are going to eventually get what they should be getting.”

He and Mary Jane exemplified this with their gift from a cashed-in permanent life insurance policy they started years ago.

“We were lucky enough to be able to afford it when we put those insurance policies in place,” says Terry. “There was also the matching ability UBC had for this gift at $25,000—so that $25,000 became $50,000.”

Elizabeth Kershaw, Director of Advancement, Development & Alumni Engagement initially began her career at UBC Okanagan as Terry’s executive assistant. “I was fortunate to be hired by Terry into the UBC Okanagan Development office in 2005 and have stayed in touch with him through his retirement,” she said. “He has been a guiding mentor and a cherished friend.”

Over the years, Elizabeth had the unique opportunity to witness Terry in action from both perspectives—as a dedicated fundraiser and a passionate philanthropist. “I am continually inspired by his dedication to supporting students and their educational journey through philanthropy.”

Though Terry raised over $300 million during his professional career, he kept his approach simple.

“I never raised any of it myself. I put the programs in place, organized them, hired good people and got out of the way,” he says.

Terry has left an enduring mark on the institutions he served, shaping Western Canada’s education landscape. His recent recognition as an honorary fellow from Okanagan College  highlights his profound impact on higher education.

When asked about his contributions, he modestly stated, “I’m just an ordinary guy who happened to be lucky, had the right people around him, and we all worked well together.”