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Charter alumnus making a big impact through small gifts

November 17, 2022

Having worked in fundraising for most of her career, Gillian Holter—better known as “Jill” to her inner circle—knows firsthand the significance of every donation, regardless of the size. It’s why she gives monthly to open doors for SFU students who could not otherwise afford a university education.

“As a former fundraiser, I know that monthly giving allows you to give more over a period of time,” says Jill. “I like to think that if someone donates the price of four coffees a month, that will add up to a few hundred dollars a year to helping a student in need.”

On September 9, 1965, SFU opened to 2,500 charter students like Jill. As one of the first women to obtain a business degree from the university in 1969, Jill was only offered starting secretarial roles in her chosen field of advertising upon graduating while her male counterparts landed positions as junior account executives.

It was then that she gravitated towards the charitable sector, where she could blend her business knowledge and passion for marketing to raise funds and oversee campaigns for some of the biggest organizations in the country, including The National Ballet of Canada and for Toronto’s second Ronald McDonald House while working at Ketchum Canada.

“I studied business, but I’ve always been artistic, as was my mother,” she says. “I love to paint, though I haven’t painted in some time.”

Jill has been growing her support of SFU with what she can now through monthly donations, but has also made a bequest in her will to ensure that her philanthropic efforts will benefit future creative minds. For many donors like Jill, a gift in her will is one way to make a meaningful and lasting impact on students for generations to come.

“I thought about where I wanted to leave my legacy, and when I learned that SFU had a program dedicated to contemporary arts, I decided that would be the place,” says Jill. “My hope is to help contribute to the level of excellence that SFU is known for.”

Jill is now retired but shows no signs of slowing down—she sings in two classical choirs, attends classes in SFU’s Liberal Arts and 55+ Program, and enjoys volunteering in her local community. When asked whether she plans to pick up a brush again anytime soon, she laughs.

“Perhaps! There’s an easel staring back at me in the living room,” she chuckles.

“If my gift can make a difference for a talented student who also wishes to paint and pursue visual arts, then that certainly means something.”