Paying it forward

It was at an early age in a University of Lethbridge laboratory that Dave Schwass (BSc ’88) first caught the science bug. Although he wasn’t yet a student at the U of L (he was only 9 years old, after all), his older brother was, and Dave found himself in the neuroscience lab with his sibling on more than one occasion.

“Little brothers are very useful as guinea pigs. I got really good at taking IQ tests, so I think my intelligence quotient went up quite dramatically that year,” he says with a laugh.

Kidding aside, Dave’s early familiarity with and fondness for the U of L made it easy for him to feel at home as a chemistry student several years later. Born and raised in Lethbridge, he always viewed the U of L as an integral part of his hometown. But it wasn’t until after several years in the workforce that he began to realize just how profound the U of L’s impact had been on his life and career.

“The U of L gave me a great education in many ways,” Dave says. “Small class sizes and the relationships established with my professors made all the difference. There was incredible collaboration among students and a kind of mentorship with professors that really set the groundwork for my future success. High expectations for students translated into high professional expectations for myself. It was a tremendous learning environment that prepared me for the world beyond the classroom.”

Dave is currently manager – corporate environment, with NOVA Chemicals Corporation in Calgary, and is Chair of Canada’s Professional Chemists. He also serves as president of Alberta Plastics Recycling Association and has engaged in various activities with his local gas co-operative.

Previous work with the Canadian Society for Chemistry (he served as president in 2006/07) got him thinking about giving back to the institution that provided him with the skills and knowledge he needed to build a notable career in a field he loves.

Together with his wife Darla Bruns (BASc ’86), Dave decided to include a bequest to the University of Lethbridge in his will. “It’s about paying it forward,” Dave says. “I’m not sure I would have had the career I’ve had if I’d gone to another school. Leaving a legacy through my will to the U of L is a way of helping to ensure that future generations of students have the same opportunities that I did. It’s a way of supporting the U of L so that it can continue to provide the kind of learning environment that creates graduates who are ready to succeed professionally.”