Doris Kule (1921-2020)

Beloved teacher, philanthropist passes away.

Donna McKinnon - 19 March 2020

Earlier this week, we were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Doris Kule, Canadian philanthropist and friend of the University of Alberta. 

Born on a farm near Boian, Alberta in 1921 to Usten and Maria Radesh, who immigrated to Canada from the village of Shubranets near Chernivtsi in what is now Western Ukraine, Doris was a life-long educator and community leader.

After receiving teacher training at the University of Alberta, she taught grades two and three in Beverly School which she continued for 34 years until retirement in 1974. In 1977, the Edmonton Public School Board recognized Doris for her long service, and the Alberta Teachers’ Association awarded Doris with a lifetime membership for the role she played in the growth of Alberta and the educational development of this province.

Doris was active in the Ukrainian community and the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada. She had fond memories of various projects, particularly working together with other members using her sewing and needlework skills. For her steadfast service to the church, Pope John Paul II conferred upon Doris the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For the Church and the Pontiff).

In 1943, Doris met Peter Kule (Kuleba) who she married in 1944 at Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Willingdon, Alberta. As Peter’s accounting firm and business interests prospered, the Kules became champions of post-secondary education and research. Their visionary leadership and profound generosity changed the lives of many. 

Doris and Peter Kule

“Doris was an exceptional human being,” says Faculty of Arts Dean Lesley Cormack. “She was a passionate and beloved community leader and a true champion of education. Together with her husband Peter, the Kules have left an indelible mark on the University of Alberta through their generous support of world class, interdisciplinary research. She will be missed!”

In 2010, the Kules provided the founding endowment for the Kule Institute for Advanced Study (KIAS). The Kules’ beliefs and principles are reflected in the mission of the Kule Institute which seeks to enhance understanding of complex and pressing issues through interdisciplinary research in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Fine Arts. 

“Doris was always a gracious host when we visited the Kule’s,” says Geoffrey Rockwell, Director of the Kule Institute. “She would sit straight and talk about her garden. She had been a teacher and was always interested in education. [Their] donation to fund the Kule Institute for Advanced Study has had a tremendous effect on research at the U of A. It triggered matching funds that together established an endowment that allows KIAS to provide significant support every year to researchers across the arts.” 

The Kules also made significant donations to Ukrainian folklore studies at the University of Alberta in 2003, 2006, and 2007, prompting the Ukrainian Folklore Centre to be renamed the Peter and Doris Kule Centre for Ukrainian and Canadian Folklore, or more commonly, the Kule Folklore Centre.

In total, they have donated more than $14 million dollars to post-secondary institutions across Canada, including a million dollars to establish the Kule Ukrainian Canadian Studies Centre at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), along with an initiative devoted to studying the world-wide Ukrainian diaspora.

 In 2005, the University of Alberta awarded honorary doctorates to Peter and Doris Kule in recognition of their many contributions to the community and to the University of Alberta. 

With files from KIAS, CIUS and the Kule Folklore Centre.