Gift from the heart keeps passion for learning alive
William Janssen loved to learn. A self-educated pioneer and long-time resident of Woking, a small community in Alberta’s northern Peace Country, he was excited by books and reading, committed to making his community better and keenly interested in young people.
When Janssen — Willy to his friends — passed away in June 2010 at the age of 85, his will brought those passions together in a poignant and meaningful way. Athabasca University was one of several local organizations he chose to support, receiving a bequest of $50,000 to enrich scholarships and bursaries.
“He was always reading and learning and always encouraging his neighbours and the kids in his life to read more and learn more,” says Tara Friesen, AU’s manager of alumni relations and philanthropy. “He appreciated how AU’s distance learning model made it possible for people to stay in the community and continue their studies.”
Janssen was good friends with his neighbour Krista Schuett, and he asked that Schuett’s daughter, 12-year-old Emily, present his bequests to recipient organizations. His wishes were honoured at an AU student and alumni event on Dec. 1, 2011. “It was quite heartwarming,” Friesen says. “Emily talked about how important education was to Willy, and it was clear that AU was very much part of a larger passion for him.”
Janssen’s generosity is a prime example of how, with planning, one individual can support a lifelong passion and help future generations to share in it.
“He appreciated how AU’s distance learning model made it possible for people to stay in the community and continue their studies”
“These are gifts that truly come from the heart,” Friesen explains. “Bequest giving is a highly effective way to support the causes you believe in and to keep your memory alive. With advance planning, you can look after your family’s needs and also help organizations do their work.”
The process is relatively simple. It begins with conversations with family, a lawyer or financial advisor and, ideally, the receiving organization. AU, for example, can help with bequest wording to ensure that wishes are properly carried out.
“Planning your will can give you peace of mind,” Friesen says. “You know that everyone is taken care of, and you don’t need to worry about it. And you create a legacy. When you give to AU, your memory lives on in the accomplishments of the students who are supported.”
“The amount of money doesn’t have to be large in order to make a difference. Philanthropy is a word everyone can embrace.”