Thompson Rivers University

Donors empower students to succeed

February 2, 2023

If she hadn’t received any student awards, Bianca Aguinaldo’s university experience might have been much different.

“The financial support and bursaries I received have allowed me to focus and excel in my classes. They also give me time to give back to the community by being a peer mentor to other students,” says Aguinaldo, a fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration student and a Bob Gaglardi School of Business and Economics student ambassador.

TRU student Bianca Aguinaldo

TRU student Bianca Aguinaldo has received several awards during her time at university.

Aguinaldo has received several awards and bursaries at TRU, the most recent being the Grant Thornton Accounting Bursary. In addition to her academic pursuits, she serves as a Study Abroad ambassador and belongs to several university clubs. She is incredibly grateful for the support and hopes one day she can help others.

“In the future, if I am financially able to support post-secondary students, then I definitely will,” she says. “I have first-hand experience of the priceless impact financial awards have on post-secondary students.”

The positive impact of financial support on students is far reaching, but it can’t happen without donors — and the more donors, the greater the impact. With that in mind, Kamloops philanthropist Norm Daley started an initiative to increase the number of scholarships and awards for students at TRU.

The Norm Daley Initiative invites 30 donors to contribute $35,000 each to establish their own endowed award at TRU. The initiative is nearly halfway to reaching its goal after launching last fall and has seen a number of locals come on board in support of students, but more donors are needed. With a fundraising goal of $1 million, this fund will open doors for TRU students and ensure they are supported for generations to come.

Locals join the Norm Daley Initiative

Lisa and Terry Lake

Lisa and Terry Lake have recently joined the Norm Daley Initiative, creating the Lake Family Social Responsibility Award.

Lisa and Terry Lake recently joined the initiative, funding a new award: the Lake Family Social Responsibility Award, to go to an international business student enrolled in a full-time post-baccalaureate program.

“There are very few targeted international awards,” says Lisa. “I think it’s a really good time to celebrate what international students bring to the campus and the city and to try and lessen the burden a bit for a student.”

The Lake family has a long history with TRU, dating back more than two decades when it was known as University College of the Cariboo. The family moved to Kamloops after Terry accepted a position as a sessional instructor and the next year, Lisa also began working at the university. Over the years, their roles changed several times, but their relationship to the institution and community beyond remained constant. Lisa is celebrating 25 years of employment at TRU this year, the last 15 with TRU Gaglardi. In December, she plans to retire and will say an emotional farewell to what has been a huge part of her life.

Terry and Lisa had already been discussing ways to help students at TRU when they heard about the Norm Daley Initiative. Contributing seemed like a great way to support a friend who regularly steps up in such a huge way for the city of Kamloops while also positively impacting the lives of TRU students.

“There’s lots of ways of finding meaning in life, but one of them is helping others reach their goals,” says Terry. “There was a time in the early days of international student development programs at TRU that many of these students were from wealthy families. That’s changed. Many of the international students we see today come from hardworking families that don’t have a lot of means. They’re often the beacon of hope to their families and so I think there’s nothing better than to be able to be part of that circle of support for young international students.”

TRU alumni giving back

A group of three businessmen.

Business partners and TRU alumni (left to right) Clayton Burkatsky, Rob Williamson and Mike MacPhee. They are supporting students with the LMG LoanLink Fintech Award.

Another contributor to the initiative is TRU alum Rob Williamson, who has maintained his connection to the university since his days at UCC. He served on the alumni board for several years, acted as a career mentor and has regularly hired TRU graduates. Along with his family and business partners, Williamson created the LMG LoanLink Fintech Award, slated for third-year business or computer science students with financial need as one of the main criteria.

Williamson’s LMG Finance partners, Mike MacPhee and Clayton Burkatsky, are also TRU alumni. He says they started the award to give back to students while bolstering the university’s reputation.

“We’re big fans of TRU graduates,” he says, adding they currently have 19 alumni working with them. “I think Norm’s idea of developing a goal to offer more financial assistance to students in the business faculty is fantastic. It aligns perfectly with what we are trying to do in terms of supporting the university as well as recognizing how we are beneficiaries of the university’s talent and graduates.”

Williamson says he benefited from financial aid as a young student-athlete and knows how much of an impact support can have on a student. More than just the financial boost, he says the mental encouragement it provides is incalculable. He encourages other alumni and TRU supporters to consider being part of the initiative.

“The idea was to get behind something that’s bigger than us,” he says. “It’s about us wanting students to have better opportunities, enhancing TRU and definitely showing our gratitude. This initiative is here to help make the university the best it can be and the most accessible it can be.”

To find out how you can contribute to the initiative, contact Alisa Coquet, executive director of development for TRU Gaglardi and TRU World, at

“Receiving awards recognizes students’ hard work and dedication,” says Aguinaldo. “In my personal experience, it also motivates them further to pursue success, which one way or another, always has a positive impact on the world.”

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