Thanks to the State of California’s modest tuition fees in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Andrew Beckerman was able to graduate debt free from the University of California (UC) Berkeley with a Master of Architecture degree over 50 years ago.
He’s been paying that good fortune forward ever since. At first it was through focusing his career on community-based and universal physical design. Since moving to Canada 18 years ago, and becoming a citizen in 2015, he’s passed his fortuity on by providing scholarship support at a number of post-secondary institutions in B.C.
While looking for new opportunities to help students with their education and career ambitions, Andrew happened upon the groundbreaking work of fellow UC Berkeley graduate and Vancouver Island resident Dr. Brad Nelson, director of the Deeley Research Centre (DRC) at BC Cancer – Victoria
After inquiring about donating funds to fuel the work of graduate students in Dr. Nelson’s lab, Andrew established The Deeley Research Centre Graduate Student Stipend in memory of Mike Matkovich, a friend he lost to cancer.
“I’m surprised my interest in scholarship support did not head towards medical research sooner,” says Andrew. “In August 1995, due to complications from HIV, my life span was predicted to be only a short few months more. I was living in the U.S. at the time and was fortunate to gain one of only 1,400 spots in a national clinical trial for a new HIV drug. I am alive because of that medical research.”
“It’s an honour to support the next generation of researchers, who are doing the same but for people facing cancer, at the Deeley Research Centre,” he says of his $31,500 matching gift that will fund two graduate student stipends at the DRC, enabling their education and advancing their careers in a world-class research lab alongside distinguished scientists.
Guided by his alma mater’s motto Fait Lux (let there be light) Andrew has been recognized with numerous awards for his philanthropic and volunteer efforts across B.C. and Canada. But supporting the DRC sits close to his heart and he plans to donate annually in order to assist two students in their first year of graduate studies, when they often don’t yet have grants to support their work or secure them a position in a research lab, he says.
Students play an important role at the DRC, which currently supports five co-op students, eight graduate students (four PhD and four Masters) and one postdoctoral fellow. In addition, the DRC offers four high school students, in Grade 11 and 12, the opportunity to explore cancer research from the front lines in an eight-week summer program. Some students who join the Deeley Research Centre return at different stages in their studies and ultimately join the team as full-time researchers.
“The rigorously selected graduate students at the DRC embody the spirit of discovery and are passionate and hardworking in their focus on specialized cancer research,” says Dr. Brad Nelson. “They form the cornerstone of the work in the labs, contributing fresh perspectives and ideas to every project, while benefiting from a multidisciplinary and clinical-adjacent environment.”
“At BC Cancer, the next generation of researchers don’t just witness the evolution of cancer therapy; they actively shape it.”