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The legacy of a prospector and a poet, George E. Winkler Memorial Scholarship

July 24, 2019

Thanks to the forethought and generosity of a multi-faceted man from the 1800s, a prospector and a poet, the George E. Winkler Memorial Scholarship lives on into the 21st Century. 2019 marked its 40th year of providing a legacy of support for more than 450 UBC students in the geological and mineralogical sciences.

For geological sciences student Alexandra Kushnir (BSc Hon’08, MSc’12), awards funding made the difference between completing her Master’s degree or dropping out.

“This financial support afforded me the privilege of focusing on my studies and scientific research… Should I have had to enter into significant debt to complete my degree, I am unlikely to have continued with my studies.”

Alexandra has since completed a PhD in geological sciences and works in the academic field as a project manager. Because financial security is critical to student success, she hopes that donor-funded student awards remain plentiful and accessible. In Alexandra’s case, it was—thanks to someone born over 140 years ago.

In 1897 at the age of 22, George Edgar Winkler came to British Columbia. Born in Kincardine, Ontario, George journeyed to BC to find work and to create his future. First taking jobs in stores and at newspapers, Winkler gravitated to prospecting and within ten years had established himself in BC’s booming mining industry.

By 1905, he and a business partner established a real estate and mining brokerage in Princeton and Penticton and were involved in prospects throughout the province. In 1915, Winkler discovered rich copper ore deposits in the Jordan River area in what would become the Sunloch Mine. He later served as managing director for the Victoria-based Gabbro Group, which represented 23 mineral claims across the province.

He was one of the first to study mining at UBC, completing the new short course in 1917-18. Short courses offered practical and technical knowledge useful in actual work and business. They were designed for students with prior experience in industry and were marketed to people in prospecting, mining, brokering, newspapers and business—people like George Winkler.

In addition to his commercial successes, Winkler wrote poetry—publishing several books of his work during his lifetime, with his work also featured in magazines and newspapers of the day. He also gave back to his community as a member of the Similkameen Board of Trade, the Okanagan Historical Society—even running for political office in 1907.

Having lived a long and storied life at 103 years old, George Winkler passed away in Victoria in 1978. In his will, the centenarian left a generous bequest to UBC—the institution that helped start his career. His gift of $94,328 was endowed to create a scholarship for graduates and undergraduates studying the geological and mineralogical sciences, to be awarded based on distinction and need. This year, UBC celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the George E. Winkler Memorial Scholarship. His legacy has generated $450,515 in funding to support more than 450 students across the faculties of science and applied science since 1979.

Thanks to the forethought and generosity of a multi-faceted man of the 1800s, who was both a prospector and a poet, endowed awards like the George E. Winkler Memorial Scholarship live on into the 21st Century, providing legacies of support for students, while ensuring UBC continues to nurture talented and dedicated individuals—like Alexandra Kushnir—as they pursue their academic goals and create their futures.