When William W. Gilgan passed away at the age of 95 on Aug. 7, 2012, Burns Lake lost a true renaissance man. He was an RCAF Navigator in WWII, a professional forester, a planning director for the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN), a trapper, a marriage commissioner and a two-time mayor of Burns Lake. He was the first chairman of the RDBN and the last surviving charter member of the Burns Lake Rotary Club.
His legacy doesn’t only continue today in the lives of his eight children, 19 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, but it continues in the form of a scholarship that his kids established and initially funded.
“At the time, I had small kids, so it wasn’t that easy to find a share, but it wasn’t a huge imposition either since I don’t recall any particular hardship,” said Rob Gilgan, one of Bill’s children.
The money that the Gilgan family was able to put together was generously matched by Douglas College and the provincial government. “The endowment started producing student awards pretty much right away and continues to do so each year,” said Rob.
The scholarship is administered by Douglas College and has been awarded every year since 1994 to a graduating student of Lakes District Secondary School. The amount of the award has fluctuated at times with the market, but 14 of the 19 awards given have been $1000.
Anyone can donate to the fund or top up any given year’s award in order to have it amount to $1000. The current fund capital generated $744 this year, but current contributions to the fund allowed the award to be topped up to $1000 for local LDSS student Brooke Boychuk.
“What is rewarding, 20 years later, is looking at the list of LDSS students the award has helped,” said Rob.
Bill’s life in the air force and service in WW II, his work in forestry and his contribution to municipal and regional politics mark William W. Gilgan as one of those people who seem to have lived three years for everyone one of our own.
“Dad did indeed cram several lifetimes into his 95 years and remains an inspiration to me, every day,” said Rob.
The award was originally conceived as a way for ‘a bunch of kids’ to acknowledge their father, but since 1975 it has been having a impact on a deserving LDSS student every year.
“It’s humbling to know that we’ve had an impact, so far, 20 times,” said Rob.
“I hope that a story might spur other families in the region to instigate similar projects with district scholars being beneficiaries,” said Rob.
Although the fund has more than doubled in its capital reserve, it remains $7,000 shy of being able to operate in perpetuity without yearly top-ups to the award.
Donations to the William W. Gilgan award can be made through the Douglas College Foundation. Details are available at http://www.douglas.bc.ca/visitors/foundation.html.