Barn Dance Donations

    Bar None Endowments help students in need

    By Michel Proulx on January 24, 2011

    During Reunion Weekend in the fall of 2010, about a dozen alumni of the 1950 class from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agriculture gathered in a darkened classroom after the annual faculty brunch.Celebrating their 60th anniversary since graduating, the classmates from what is now the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences watched with great interest as one of their cohort, Cy McAndrews, played two videos he made during previous reunions in 1990 and in 2000.

    The classmates chatted, laughed and shed a tear or two as they watched and listened to their peers — some present, some not, and others who had passed on. It’s not unusual for many of these classmates to gather together and share memories. In fact, some of the members of the class of ’50 still get together every month for lunch, a tradition they started about 20 years ago.

    The agriculture class of 1950 is known as the largest class in the University’s history with 127 graduates. It’s also known as being the most active class when it comes to giving back to their alma mater. Not only did the class participate in the founding of the annual party known as Bar None in 1948, they also started the Bar None Endowment Fund in 1997. The idea behind the Fund was to help students, particularly from rural regions, who needed some assistance with the daunting bills for tuition, room and board.

    “There was a need to set something up that would help with those costs,” explained the late Joe Gurba. But the class soon discovered that the Fund wasn’t going to grow as much as they had hoped unless they enlisted outside help. So, just as they had done with Bar None, the class opened it up to anyone who shared their cause. “We said, ‘let’s open it up to all the classes in the Faculty of Agriculture and alumni and anybody else who would like to contribute,’ ” said Gurba. “So it took off from there.”

    And take off, it did. In less than 10 years, the Fund grew to more than $1 million and was helping out more than 40 students. Today, the Fund sits at over $1.6 million and is continuing to grow. A new goal has been set of reaching $3 million by 2015, to coincide with the Faculty’s 100th anniversary. Many Aggies have contributed to the Fund, including the class of ’61 who are currently raising money for an endowed Bar None fund, and the class of ’64, who already have one. The biggest donor to Bar None is a 1962 grad.

    For its part, the class of ’50 has endowed three Bar None scholarships, one for a student in each of second, third and fourth year, as well as three named scholarships.

    So what is it about the class of ’50 that inspired them to want to help out in the way they have? Most of the classmates will tell you it’s in no small part because of their shared experience as soldiers in the Second World War. “I would suppose 75 percent of the class were veterans of the Second World War,” said Gurba, himself a veteran. “We were pretty serious about education, pretty serious students. We liked to have a good time, but we realized we had to get on with it.”

    Cy McAndrews agrees. Also a ’50 grad and a veteran, McAndrews added that his classmates were generally a little more mature than those coming out of high school and had a different attitude. “We’ve always been quite close to one another,” he says. “I think it really is the result of all of us being veterans and coming in at the same time. A lot of us were married and were having problems getting started in life. There was quite a bit of helping each other out.”

    Gurba added that soldiers depend on teamwork, on banding together to achieve a common goal. “You depend on the guy around you to do his job or else you’re in danger,” he said. “I think that philosophy carried on when the war was over.” Gurba also believed that his classmates felt it was important to practice in the community those things which they fought for in the Second World War.

    In short, the class of ’50 was one whose members were forged by war and who understood, perhaps more than most, what it means to help others when the need arises.

    How An Endowment Works

    Investing in an endowment is a thoughtful way of leaving a legacy. Endow­ments at the Univer­sity of Alberta can be established to support faculty, students and research initiatives in perpetuity. The University invests your endowment so the interest income supports the designated purpose, while the principal remains intact and grows. A percentage of the interest is expended annually, with the balance of interest earned added to the endowment principal to protect it against inflation. Attaching your name to an endowed award ensures your family, friends and the community will witness your commitment to advancing knowledge and excellence for generations to come.

    If you would like to support the Bar None Endowment Fund, you can choose between the general Bar None Endowment Fund that supports student awards across all departments in the Faculty of ALES, or you can choose to support or establish a named Bar None Endowment for students in a particular program or to support international experiential learning opportunities. Under the Bar None name, all awards are granted based on a combination of academic achievement and leadership activities including volunteerism and community involvement.

    For more information about endowments, please contact the Gift Planning Unit. Donate to the U of A at