Paying their gratitude forward

11 May 2021

Balvant Rajani and his wife Sonia are originally from Malawi and Venezuela, respectively. They met in Montreal while completing their Master’s Degrees at McGill University. After graduating, they returned to Venezuela, where they started their family. But 14 years later, they returned to Canada because of Venezuela’s complicated political situation.

“We knew that more education would improve our chances to make a better life as newcomers,” says Sonia. Balvant decided to get his PhD in Civil Engineering at U of A, under the supervision of Dr. Morgenstern, Professor of Civil Engineering.

While Balvant was doing his PhD, the couple found it difficult to get established both socially and financially. Sonia could not find a teaching position that matched her credentials and experience. Balvant was able to complement his income with a scholarship, teaching a course at U of A Civil Engineering, and with additional consulting work under the guidance of Dr. Morgenstern.

After Balvant completed his PhD he found a job at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa. And Sonia was able to pursue a successful teaching career in Ottawa.

Balvant says, “we both believe a lot in education. Because of education, our daughters and brothers have done well in life. And we could advance our careers because we were given a helping hand while we pursued our studies. Because of this, we have left a part of our assets to the University of Alberta, so that other students in need can have a chance to succeed.”

For the Rajanis, it is important to fund a student scholarship.

“Financial help to pursue education can change a person’s life for a better future and help them contribute to society.” says Sonia.

After speaking with the Planned Giving team at U of A, they set up a scholarship specifically for a student in financial need who shows a strong social conscience through volunteerism.

The Rajanis’ generosity will make a big difference to a student. And their gratitude and values will have a lasting legacy for generations to come. They are paying it forward.