By the time you get to be 96 years old, it’s fair to say that you know a thing or two. For Faculty of Forestry alumnus Gerry Burch (BASc ’48), the list of things he knows is extensive: a brief conversation can touch on the history of forestry in British Columbia, the growth of the Faculty, and the importance of philanthropy.
Get him going, and this highly respected “forester’s forester” will entertain a listener with anecdotes, like the time he watched the harvesting of a second growth stand that he had planted 50 years previously, or what it was like back in the day when the role of forester was underappreciated.
“After I graduated from UBC and had my first job interview with the vice president of a major company, I learned that there were no jobs for a forester, only for a cruiser or forest engineer,” he says. Gerry took the job as a timber cruiser, and gradually worked his way up the ladder at BC Forest Products, culminating in the position of vice president.
Another thing Gerry knows about is charitable giving. He’s done a lot of it, and plans to do even more once he passes from this world. By leaving a bequest to the Faculty in his will, Gerry is blending a current gift with a future one to create a long-term impact.
Currently, Gerry supports the Gerry Burch Scholarship in Forestry, for undergraduate students entering second or third year in the BSF program. Since it was established in 2009, this scholarship has boosted confidence and relieved financial stress for 10 students.
His will includes a gift to continue this scholarship. “By putting a bequest to the Faculty in my will, I can still take care of my own needs and leave something to my family. They come first, of course,” he says. “I like knowing I can still have an impact on students after I’m gone.”
I like knowing I can still have an impact on students after I’m gone.
In 1994, Gerry helped found the Faculty Alumni Fundraising Committee and acted as the vice-chair. He was also co-chair of the fundraising campaign that built the Forest Sciences Centre. “We had a three-person organizing committee, and we encouraged forestry companies to donate funds for specific rooms in the Centre,” he says. “My wife and I donated a lab, because you can’t ask people to give if you aren’t giving yourself.”
Unlike many people, Gerry is not following a family tradition of giving; he’s making one. “My family didn’t have much when I was growing up,” he says. “I guess I just got into the habit of making donations,and I’m still doing it!
Gerry also encourages his fellow alumni who are retired or semi-retired to consider establishing a student scholarship or bursary. “It doesn’t take much money to set up, but it means a lot for students,” he says. “I receive thank you letters from students that are amazing and heartwarming.”