Gifting an experience: Alumni donation to create bursaries for newcomer students

Dec 18, 2023 | Alumni & Friends Story

Looking back at his time at RJC, Rudy Wiens (1951) says it helped shape the course of his life. He remembers once being called into the principal’s office in trouble, but instead of getting a lecture he says, the principal told him, “‘you can do better than that,’” Rudy says. “This statement has stayed with me during the rest of my life. The way of life that was promoted at RJC was what helped me in my choice of my actions during my life.” His three years at RJC was also an introduction to the Anabaptist life and to Mennonite studies.

Now RJC is honoured to have received a gift from Rudy of $30,000 towards bursaries to help more students have the same formative experience that he did. Rudy hopes the bursaries will specifically help first-generation Canadians attend the school when they might not otherwise be able to afford it.

Rudy remembers the many programs and activities that RJC offered made his three years at the school fun and memorable. For example, he’d never played hockey before coming to RJC, and so being on the team in his Grade 11 year was fulfilling. One memorable experience was heading to a tournament with the team in -45 degree weather being transported by a two-ton truck with a wooden box on the back. And during the two-hour journey the team had to hop out and walk a mile to try and warm up.

He also remembers participating in the drama production and the musical program, despite not being much of a music person before getting there. And having grown up in Herschel, Saskatchewan where the Herschel Ebenfeld Mennonite Church had only a small group of young people, Rudy really enjoyed being surrounded by a large community of students. “It was a great experience to have 150 around me as a social family my age, to form long-term friendships,” he says. And of course he says the classes themselves helped to shape him as an individual. 

Having worked in immigration for many years, and seeing newcomers work to adapt to life in Canada, he believes that the education and community at RJC can help with that transition. “RJC is known to develop leadership, which would be helpful to both society and church,” he says.

“It’s inspiring when alumni like Rudy reflect fondly on their RJC experience and can use their generosity to help more students have the same kind of meaningful experience,” says Alex Tiessen, director of development at RJC. “We’re looking forward to being able to welcome even more students from diverse backgrounds into our school community.”

Looking forward, Rudy’s hope for the future of RJC is to see the school continue to grow and offer the same kinds of experiences that shaped him. He says, “[I hope] the school will continue to do well, grow and encourage open-mindedness and help students to see the Anabaptist way of life.”

Photo: Rudy Wiens as a student at RJC in 1951.