Ellen and Russ are innovative leaders with a passion for implementing new ideas that positively impact B.C.’s education system.


Ellen and Russ Cmolik win the 2016 Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award

August 10, 2016

By Justin Wong

Ellen and Russ Cmolik, who established The Cmolik Foundation (TCF) in 2008, believe that all Canadian high school students who want to further their education should have the opportunity to do so.

Ellen and Russ are innovative leaders with a passion for implementing new ideas that positively impact B.C.’s education system. Their efforts to help students pursue their academic dreams have earned them SFU’s 2016 Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes significant contributions to Simon Fraser University.

Each year their foundation awards approximately 15 academic scholarships worth a maximum of $35,000 each, paid over five years. And in 2015 the Cmoliks went further, establishing the Cmolik Prize with a $1.3-million endowment to SFU’s Faculty of Education.

Awarded biennially, the $100,000 prize recognizes recipients who have developed and implemented an invention, innovation, concept, process or procedure that enhances educational practice in the K-12 public school system in British Columbia.

“For Russ and I, education has been a powerful tool that has helped us to open doors for ourselves,” says Ellen, who is a retired Chartered Professional Accountant and Certified Financial Planner. “Education has always been a big part of our lives and we wanted to share that with others.”

Russ, who is the chairman of TCF and a Chartered Professional Accountant as well, says their foundation looks for quality students who have encountered adversity and need support in order to reach the next academic level.

“Often, the students who need our help aren’t “straight-A” students, but they have a great passion to succeed,” he says.

“They come to us for help because they have health problems, financial issues or don’t have family support. We are privileged that we’re involved with these young adults, who otherwise may have been left behind. Wouldn’t that have been a shame?”

As TCF approaches its eight-year anniversary, Ellen reflects on what their students have accomplished since the foundation began.

"I am very proud of all my students. We currently have 54 students enrolled. Our graduated students are now working, or furthering their education. Some will be lawyers, doctors, accountants, journalists and economists. The list is endless. Some graduates have married and a few have purchased their first house. Many of these students grew up having a tough time.  We may pay for their books and tuition, but they do the hard work themselves."

About the Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award:

This annual award is given to an individual(s) or organization who has contributed significantly to Simon Fraser University. Priority will be given to recognizing individuals, but organizations may be honoured when they act as a corporate citizen. The purpose of the award is to recognize individuals and organizations for their outstanding commitment and service to SFU.

Award presentation at the Chancellor’s dinner

The award will be presented to the Cmoliks Thursday evening, Oct. 6, 2016. Chancellor Anne Giardini will host a dinner (6:00 pm reception and 6:30 pm dinner) at the Diamond Alumni Centre, on the Burnaby Campus.