Impact of Giving

Supporting UNB – a family tradition

Author: Development and Donor Relations

Posted on Jan 14, 2021

Category: Donor Stories , Creating Opportunities for Students , Alumni Annual Giving

A family’s tradition of studying at UNB has grown into a tradition of supporting UNB.

Both Gary Lawson (BBA 1976, LLB 1979) and his daughter Sarah Birch (BBA 2001, LLB 2004) studied at UNB’s Saint John campus for their undergraduate degrees, and both went on to complete law degrees at UNB’s Law School. In fact, Sarah’s sister is also a UNB graduate, like many of Gary’s siblings. Even Gary’s father attended UNB.

Gary and Sarah both feel strongly about giving back to their communities, including UNB. “I think a thing that gets lost on a lot of people is when they give to their university, they’re doing so much good work for the community around them,” Sarah said.

That work in the community is close to this family’s heart: Gary is a longtime member of the Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative, an organization dedicated to ending generational poverty in his home city.

Gary and Sarah have donated to many funds at UNB, so it was not a surprise a few years ago when Gary suggested that a better gift for him on special occasions would be a donation to UNB’s Promise Partnership, rather than something in a box.

The Promise Partnership, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2020, connects UNB’s Saint John campus with the broader community to help combat poverty. This initiative provides educational support and opportunities to youth in two of Saint John’s priority neighbourhoods. Likewise, close ties with the community enrich the university by providing meaningful hands-on learning, volunteer, and personal growth experiences to UNB students.

Both father and daughter credit UNB with helping to shape the adults they became. “I always say the best gift my parents ever gave me was my siblings,” said Sarah, “but the other best gift they gave me was my education.”

Gary echoed these sentiments, saying, “who I am has been formed to a great extent by my family, and by my university experience ... I think I owe it to the university to help contribute back, to help do the same thing for others.”

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