The Patel family didn't start out with a plan to create a charitable giving foundation, but rather, it grew from a decades-long intention to pass a legacy of gratitude between generations.
Established in 2020, the Kanti and Indu Patel Family Bursary was created by the Patel family to assist full-time Indigenous entrance students enrolled in any STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), social work, or nursing program. To date, the bursary has helped six Lakehead students with their tuition costs.
"My parents always believed in education as a pathway to prosperity and they were looking for ways to give," says Unnati Patel, one of Kanti and Indu's three daughters.
"This bursary also expresses their appreciation to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada as the original custodians of the land we now also call home."
Kanti and Indu immigrated to southern Ontario in 1974 from England, and prior to that, from Uganda. They raised their children and their grandson in Canada, all of whom have benefited from the quality and availability of educational opportunities here. Sadly, Kanti died in 2019 from severe complications caused by a bad fall that required hospitalization.
"It was then that we decided to create a legacy fund in my parents' name and to also pay it forward to nurses for the care and compassion they gave us during that very stressful time," says Unnati—a former aerospace engineer who retired at 50 to complete two more university degrees in philosophy.
The family set up their foundation through their bank and chose an annual giving model.
"We're not billionaires, but annual giving can be accessible and allows us to give tens of thousands of dollars over the long term."
Unnati says the family took the time to get specific about what and where they wanted to give, including not giving anonymously, wanting the money to go straight to a student's tuition, and with a funding priority of "need above merit."
The family approached other postsecondary institutions, but none were able to meet their specific needs. It was then that a close friend and former engineering colleague—a Lakehead alumna—connected Unnati with the University, feeling sure that Lakehead could make good use of an annual gift and meet all of the Patels' criteria. She was right.
In fact, their experience with Lakehead was so positive that the family plans to continue their support past the original five years of their commitment.
"We are so happy we looked at Lakehead and have been able to make a difference where we can," Unnati says.
For her, this is the most rewarding part of the whole process.
"There was a point where my mom was worried it was taking too long to find the place that fit," she says. "And now we say it all worked out just right—we needed that time to find and help these exact students, at this exact time, at Lakehead."
To learn more about establishing your own scholarship, bursary, or award at Lakehead University, please contact Annual Giving Manager Meghan Hanbury at email@example.com or at 807-343-8010 ext. 8910. To make a gift today you can visit donate.lakeheadu.ca.