00:00 / 00:00
Donor Hub | Donor spotlight

A lifelong journey of giving and learning

A decades-long appreciation for the work of UBC’s outgoing chancellor inspired Dr. Yosef Wosk to continue his generosity toward UBC, this time in support of Indigenous students.

L to R: Dr. Yosef Wosk, award recipients Reilly Dunne, Kennedy Pope, and the Honorable Steven Lewis Point

Dr. Yosef Wosk is a scholar, educator, author, businessperson, art collector, explorer, rabbi and peace activist. An Officer of the Order of Canada and member of the Order of British Columbia, he was awarded Vancouver’s Freedom of the City in 2022 for his philanthropic work with various charitable causes.

Philanthropy flows like a current through Dr. Wosk’s life. Preferring a nimble approach, he has given over $700,000 to UBC to support various UBC causes, ranging from student awards to interdisciplinary research.

“I don’t have a particular philosophy of giving. It’s just being open to the various voices,” he says.

Dr. Wosk’s philanthropy is inspired by the people he meets and their authenticity. He has recently endowed the Steven Point Award in Law for Indigenous Students—dedicated to the outgoing UBC Chancellor, the Honourable Steven Point, formerly the 28th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

“I’ve admired his work and personality for many years,” says Dr. Wosk. “Steven Point is one of those rare, kind, dedicated and exemplary individuals—both personally and in his involvement with the community.”

Chancellor Point appreciates Dr. Wosk’s support for an award essential for UBC’s growing cohort of Indigenous law students.

“I am extremely humbled and grateful for this gesture from Dr. Wosk. This award will go a long way to assist Indigenous law students who are experiencing difficulty in making financial ends meet,” says Chancellor Point.

Yosef feels endowing such an award steers recipients and potential donors to the aspirational example of Steven Point.

“People like him are sometimes appreciated to a degree but not celebrated enough as an example to the next generation,” says Dr. Wosk. “So that’s what I wanted to do for Chancellor Point—to enthuse others to fortify and fulfill themselves by following his example.”

Yosef’s passions reflect his upbringing—from his parents’ flight from antisemitism in Eastern Europe to his father’s commitment to education and philanthropy.

“I was always brought up with the value of education. Being a lifelong learner is part of the Jewish tradition.”

“My father had to drop out of school before completing grade six to work with the family—to help support them here in Vancouver,” says Dr. Wosk. “But he became a major supporter of educational causes. I felt fortunate I had the opportunity to continue learning.”

A pivotal moment was when UBC introduced the Arts One program in 1967, a new interdisciplinary initiative ideal for young learners to evolve into independent-minded scholars.

For Dr. Wosk, it nearly didn’t happen.

“After high school, I felt I had enough, and I didn’t want to go to university,” he recalls. “The UBC Arts One program was revolutionary at the time—and that really saved higher education for me.”

Dr. Wosk now has seven university degrees. Having studied in Jerusalem, New York, and Harvard Divinity School, he thinks of learning as an ongoing process to seek balance in life.

As the former director of Interdisciplinary Programs at Simon Fraser University, he reflects that “it’s crucial to become aware of not just the struggles in life, but also the gifts, and to try to not waste a moment while engaging with the fullness of reality. I evolved from not wanting to continue with formal education to now embracing the entire cosmos as my teacher.”

While still committed to his philanthropic causes, Yosef has stepped back from many of his charitable commitments on boards and committees to concentrate on his scholarly writing and extensive art collection.

“I’ve been dedicating these last few years to writing and publishing,” says Dr. Wosk. “I am also curating my art collection for exhibition. At first, these endeavours felt selfish but I came to realize that if I didn’t say no to others occasionally, I’d never get my own work done.”

For Dr. Wosk, balancing a life of philanthropy with his own scholarly and artistic work comes with a sense of responsibility to others—and to himself.

“I live in this hall of mirrors with the constant question of relativity,” he says. “So, the preciousness of time—and what I do with it—becomes even more important. Simultaneously, I still strive to assist others and contribute to a better world.”