Supporting the next generation of educators

Les Dickason wears a Nanaimo Museum shirt and leans on a car

February 26, 2024 - 2:15pm

Legacy donor Les Dickason shares his story

When the opportunity to help set up a teacher education program at VIU (then Malaspina College) presented itself, Les Dickason left his job with the school district to be part of it. After his retirement in 1997, he established a bursary through the VIU Foundation. The fund has grown and now supports two students going into their second year of the Education program. 

What is your connection to VIU?

I spent 25 years “as a rolling stone” with School District 68, starting in 1966 when I emigrated from Australia. I started as a teacher of mathematics and drama at Nanaimo District Secondary School, then I was a counsellor and administrative assistant, a vice-principal and principal, director of instruction and then assistant superintendent. I was planning to use a leave of absence in 1989 to charge my batteries and explore other alternatives. 

An ex-colleague from NDSS, Bob DeBuyscher, called from Malaspina College, where he was head of the Physical Education department, and invited me to come and assist him with the setting up of a new teacher education program there. I worked part time and I taught again, which was wonderful – especially as most students were adults with a career already behind them, so they were mature and had life experience. I resigned from the school district and became a full-time faculty member. Soon I was promoted to be an administrator there too. During our time in the army huts, we designed the education building and saw its completion before I retired as an assistant to the dean in 1997.

During my early retirement, I established a bursary through the VIU Foundation to pay a sum of money annually to a student going into second year of the Education program but needing assistance. This has grown over the years as I added to it and the funds were matched. It now provides two bursaries each year.

Additionally, I have created a benefaction account, which annually provides a donation to the Foundation to add to the bursary, or to be used for other purposes at VIU.

What inspired your generous support? 

Teaching and educating teachers have both been very important in my life. I know from meeting ex-students that it is possible to have a huge influence when one is a teacher even though one does not know it at the time. I was pleased when Malaspina initiated a teacher education program because local young people (and some not so young) could attend close to home instead of heading to Victoria or Vancouver or further afield. I decided that giving back to my local university was the least I could do in retirement. I have no children so consider being a donor as my alternative to being a father.

What do you hope to achieve with your philanthropy? 

No lofty aims, but to make a small difference in terms of assisting Education students in need as they continue their programs without going bankrupt or taking out too many loans. 

Do you have any advice for people who want to support a cause? 

I suggest to those who might waver in terms of whether to go ahead, be brave! Do it and make the adjustments necessary after the decision is made and the money is committed.

Do you have any advice on life, learning and success that you would like to share?

During my professional life, and since my retirement, a guiding principle has been that when the “brass ring” goes across my path, I reach for it, grab it and take a chance rather than be content with the status quo. That strategy led to my being in Nanaimo now even though I only planned to spend one year here when I arrived in 1966.

As a result, I changed jobs or job titles often and it worked for me. In retirement it led to wonderful travel experiences. Years after my late wife died suddenly, a chance Zoom meeting resulted in a potential new relationship. I took a chance and have not regretted it.

Taking risks and chances worked for me. Recognizing that is not for everyone, I heartily recommend it to other intelligent people who might do likewise.

Tags: Education | VIU Foundation | In the Community

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email