Faces of Philanthropy

The Gift of Friendship

During a friendship and professional relationship dating back more than four decades, John Kuspira and Ramesh Bhambhani have helped mould the minds of countless genetics students at the U of A. It's only fitting, then, that their partnership should endure to aid students in the decades to come.

Bhambhani met his future friend and mentor in 1965, when he signed up for Kuspira's undergraduate course, Genetics 351. "I was fascinated by the way he taught," recalls Bhambhani.

Kuspira explains his approach: "Many people teach genetics in a rote manner, but it's a very analytical subject. If students can think about problems and resolve them, they'll remember the concepts, the principles and the processes of genetics, and they'll be able to apply them."

In addition to Kuspira's impeccably organized lectures, Bhambhani was struck by the professor's practical and analytical approach. "At the end of the week, he assigned us problems based on what had been covered. It was an extensive assignment, and it motivated and challenged you."

With Bhambhani's help, Kuspira culled data from past scientific publications to concoct problems (as well as their solutions), which were eventually published in 1996 into a book, Compendium of Problems in Genetics.

In 2009, when they sold the copyright to publisher WH Freeman, they decided to use some of the proceeds to fund two new scholarships in genetics. The company, taken by the idea, agreed to significantly increase its offer.

Kuspira gives Bhambhani full credit for putting this crowning stamp on their friendship. "It was his idea, and I said, 'I agree with you completely.' it's nice to recognize a few excellent students in genetics and biology."