UBC education faculty gets $2.5 million for rural teaching

Professorship will explore how to support and equip disadvantaged rural communities

The faculty of education at the University of British Columbia has received its largest-ever donation, $2.5 million, from a B.C. philanthropist and medical lab founder. The money has been earmarked to create what the school calls a “first-of-its-kind professorship in rural teacher education.”

Donald Rix, founder of MDS Metro Laboratories and UBC clinical professor emeritus of pathology, along with daughter Laurie Macrae, gave the money to establish the Eleanor Rix Professorship in Rural Teacher Education. According to a university news release, the program will examine how to best support and equip teachers for the unique challenges presented by teaching in rural communities.

“Educating outstanding teachers – the people who train the next generation of British Columbians – is critical,” said Rix in the release. “We are delighted to provide this support.”

The announcement comes after the the province’s Rural Education Task Force, which was established in 2003, discovered that teachers and students in rural areas do not receive the same educational opportunities as those in urban areas. Problems faced by rural communities include multi-grade classes, high faculty turnover, a lack of funding and fewer opportunities for professional development.

Rob Tierney, dean of the school’s faculty of education, says the blueprints for rural education developed through the professorship could be used in communities worldwide.

With this recent gift, Rix has given nearly $9.5 million to the university, which has included funding of a medical bursary and a chair in early childhood development, along with gifts to the school’s athletics department and laboratory management program office.