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Community Alumni

Such good sports: Wicijowski Family Fund supports student-athletes

27 November 2023
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From an early age, Gordon Wicijowski loved basketball. He played for the U of R Cougars and U of S Huskies, coached teams in the City of Regina’s recreation league, and—well into his 80s—was a fixture in the stands, cheering on the University of Regina Cougars Women’s Basketball team, as his granddaughters were also avid basketball players. 

Philanthropy unites family, creates community

For Gordon, varsity sports and education were integral to the health of a community. 

“Dad believed that it was good for the community to have a varsity team to cheer for,” recalls his son Stuart Wicijowski. “He also recognized that students who play varsity sports tend to be more successful in high-stress jobs. They are used to juggling academics and other things that pull them in different directions, so they can manage time well and are good team players. Dad used to talk about that all the time.” 

Photo collage of a young Gordon Wicijowski in his basketball uniform beside a photo of his granddaughter and basketball star Taryn Wicijowski.
An enduring, multi-generational family connection to basketball with Gordon Wicijowski (lt) paving the way for his granddaughter Taryn Wicijowski (rt) who was a star with the Utah Utes in the NCAA. Photo credit: Laurice Wicijowski.

Following his retirement in 1996, Gordon wanted to support the U of R and the sport he deeply loved, and so established an endowment fund for the U of R community. As a former accountant, Gordon understood balancing the value of a tax benefit with the philanthropic power of a gift. More than 20 years later, the Wicijowski Family Fund has grown to almost $300,000. 

“My grandpa always preached to us the importance of focusing on your education and pursuing post-secondary opportunities,” says Eric Wicijowski, BBA 2020. “As an avid sportsman in his day, he appreciated that sports help teach invaluable life skills such as teamwork, dedication, and commitment. His unconditional support for all of his grandchildren’s activities helped us reach our individual goals, as I know this fund will help support the Cougars basketball team reach theirs.” 

My grandpa always preached to us the importance of focusing on your education and pursuing post-secondary opportunities. As an avid sportsman in his day, he appreciated that sports help teach invaluable life skills such as teamwork, dedication, and commitment. — Gordon Wicijowski’s grandson Eric Wicijowski, BBA 2020

After Gordon passed away in the fall of 2022, the family discussed how best to allocate the funding from Gordon’s endowment, and the Cougars Women’s Basketball team stood out as the most fitting choice. 

“We wanted to support something long term, and we all knew that his passion was women’s basketball,” says Stuart. “Dad particularly loved women’s basketball because his granddaughters all played. He’d go to all the women’s Cougars games, as many as he could get to. And he’d take the players out for supper after with his buddies. I run into some of those women now, and they tell me these stories about our dad and his friends, and they really appreciated it.” 

Supporting student-athletes 

Gordon had very clear views on the correlation between healthy communities and healthy universities. 

“He viewed universities as needing a little extra involvement and support from the community to be exceptional,” says Stuart. “We can’t forget about our universities, or we’re not a fully fledged community.”

Starting in fall 2024, the Wicijowski Family Fund will provide an annual $4,000 scholarship to an undergraduate student athlete on the women’s basketball team. The student recipient can be enrolled in any faculty at the U of R and the scholarship is aimed at supporting out-of-town athletes currently on the team or an athlete who demonstrates financial need. 

The remaining funds will be allocated to assist with the team’s operational expenses as determined by the head coach, such as support for the salary of an assistant coach, team travel expenses, and non-conference competition. 

“The donation from Gord will have a profound impact on the student-athletes,” says Michaela Kleisinger, Assistant Coach of the women’s team. “As a program, we rely on generosity from people like Gord to create scholarship opportunities. This donation will also aid in the operations of our team so we are able to create positive student-athlete experiences for everyone on the team. We look forward to awarding the scholarship for years to come, and we are very grateful to the Wicijowski family for their contribution to the program.” 

Two men stand at the front of a classroom.
Stuart Wicijowski (son of Gordon Wicijowski) and President Jeff Keshen at a November 24 reception honouring Gordon's philanthropic legacy. Photo credit: Shaira Castillo / U of R Athletics

On November 24, members of the Wicijowski family, the Cougars Women’s Basketball team, and the University community paid tribute to Gordon Wicijowski’s legacy at a private reception before the women’s game later that evening. 

“Philanthropy – through financial contributions but also by generously sharing valuable time and expertise – is essential to building a community of giving at the U of R for the benefit of our students. In both respects, Gordon’s generosity has been a source of great inspiration for many people over the decades. It is fitting, then, that the Wicijowski family gift creates opportunities for student-athletes to develop at the University of Regina and in turn become leaders in our community and engaged alumni after they graduate,” said Dr. Jeff Keshen, President and Vice-Chancellor of the U of R, at the event. 

A Lifetime of Service

Recognizing throughout his life that community plays a vital role in the achievements and well-being of a university, Gordon served the U of R in many capacities: as Chair of the University of Regina’s Crown Foundation, the University’s Board of Governors, and the University’s Audit Committee. As well, he held an advisory role with Campion College and the Faculty of Business Administration. 

Alongside his passion for sports, Gordon studied business administration back when the University of Regina was known as Regina College. Eventually, he established his own accounting practice which would grow to become Regina’s largest independent accounting firm and was awarded the designation FCA, which is the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a Chartered Accountant. He was also the first Chartered Accountant to be awarded an honorary doctorate from his University, which he received together with one of his hockey heroes, Gordie Howe, in 1997. 

Two older men dressed in regalia.

The two Gordies – [L-R] Gordon Wicijowski with Gordie Howe both received their honorary doctorates from the U of R in 1997. Credit U of R Photography

Looking back on the legacy his father and mother Ardella left with a strong commitment to supporting community, Stuart reflects, “As the next generation, we’re trying hard to live up to the example they’ve set. They really believed in Regina, in Saskatchewan, and in Canada. And they wanted to make it a better place for everybody.”

Learn more about the Wicijowski Family Scholarship today.

Banner photo credit: Shaira Castillo / U of R Athletics.

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