On Monday May 14th the GSS was part of a ceremony organized by the Government of Canada to honor Leon Koerner as a person of national historic significance.
The ceremony was appropriately hosted in the Penthouse of Thea Koerner House and attended by members of the Koerner family. In 1959 Leon donated the money to build a center for graduates, which would be named in after his late wife Thea. Thea Koerner House was completed in 1962 and became the home of the Graduate Students Association, which has since become the GSS.
New GSS President John Ede spoke at the event along with Joyce Murray, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra and Susan Porter, Dean of UBC’s Graduate School.
Leon and his wife Thea, who were both Jewish, fled Czechoslovakia in 1939 to escape persecution from the NAZI’s, settling in Vancouver.
The ceremony recognized Leon both for his philanthropy but also for contributions to the forestry industry in British Columbia. He developed a technique to make the wood from the western hemlock commercially viable, he marketed it as ‘Alaska Pine’ and also encouraged sustainable forestry and conservation practices in BC.
In his speech John reflected on the on the hugely important role that Leon Koerner played in enhancing the lives of UBC graduate students.
“In his letter to the UBC President Norman Mackenzie, announcing the bequest Leon wrote ‘I hope it will fill a particular need that would not otherwise be filled in the ordinary course.’ That was more than 55 years ago so it is no exaggeration to say that generations of graduate students have benefitted from that generosity. That visionary donation certainly filled a particular need in 1959 and I will, I believe, continue to serve the ‘particular needs of graduate students for many years to come”.
Read the full text of John’s speech