Salvation Army fund helps world wide

April 06, 2006, volume 35, no. 7
By Diane Luckow

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University endowments come in many forms, but the Salvation Army development fund is one of a kind.

Established in 1989 by SFU benefactor the late John Wighton, it stipulates that SFU use the proceeds from the $3 million fund to provide advanced educational opportunities to Salvation Army personnel.

Wighton, a professor emeritus in engineering science from the University of Saskatchewan, made his fortune in the high tech market - he was one of the first to recognize Nintendo's potential, according to Sid Ireland, a friend and an officer in the Salvation Army.

Wighton, a bachelor, invested his money wisely, says Ireland, and recognized that the Salvation Army, which is both a church and one of the world's largest social service agencies, is also careful with its contributions.

Wighton set up the endowment to initially help the Salvation Army in Canada, but the endowment also helps the continuing education of the organization's 25,000 officers worldwide, who work with the poor and disadvantaged in 111 countries, and another 40 countries on an unofficial basis.

Susan Burgess, director of management and professional programs for continuing studies at SFU, directs the endowment fund. She says it generates about $145,000 each year to be spent on Salvation Army projects.

Over the years, SFU's collaboration with the organization has grown, she says. They now offer programs in non-profit management, design leadership programs, establish courses for the Salvation Army's William and Catherine Booth College in Winnipeg and consults in areas such as prior learning assessment. SFU also initiated a distance education program used by Army officers in Canada and abroad.

Jonathan Raymond is president and vice-chancellor of Booth College, where as many as 400 Salvation Army officers are enrolled in credit courses, including six courses that were designed and initially taught by SFU faculty and instructors as part of a certificate in management.

“SFU helps us design and offer the courses and then transfers them to Booth College,” explains Raymond.

SFU staff helped the college to develop a distance education capacity that now offers 25 courses to Army officers in 30 countries.

“These courses are largely offered in the developing world where Salvation Army officers' leadership development is constrained by local and national barriers to higher education,” explains Raymond. For example, in India many officers come from castes and social strata that restrict or prevent access to university education.

The distance education program overcomes that inequity, he says, providing them with quality leadership development and management skills.

Staff from SFU continuing studies also trained Booth College instructors, easing the transition from face-to-face learning to online distance learning.

The SFU endowment fund also enables SFU to partner with Booth College to provide consultation and capacity-building to other Salvation Army territories.

Recently, for example, a joint SFU and Booth College team traveled to Chile and Bolivia to help the Salvation Army address the challenge of educating officers who are spread out across a territory that stretches for thousands of miles along South America's west coast.

As well, over the past three years SFU has delivered  an intensive, on-site executive leadership development course to identify high-level leadership among the officers and prepare them to take on more responsibility across Canada.

“It's quite wonderful to see how this endowment has fostered such an interesting partnership with a charitable organization,” says Burgess. “It's fascinating to see the value of the programs.”

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