Library latest legacy of generous spirit

When family, friends and admirers of the late Walter C. Koerner gather at the Museum of Anthropology on March 9 for a memorial service celebrating his life, they will be surrounded by the immense goodwill he bestowed on UBC for more than four decades.

The museum, permanent home of the Koerner Ceramics Gallery, is just one of many examples on campus of Koerner's belief in the university as a compelling investment.

The memorial service for Koerner, who died in July 1995, is one of many events planned around the opening of the most recent of Koerner's legacies, the Walter C. Koerner Library, in early March.

In addition to donating his treasury of ceramics collected over an 80-year span, it was Koerner's gift of Northwest Coast Native art -- a collection assembled over many years with his wife Marianne -- which initiated the construction of the world-renowned museum.

Subsequent donations included Inuit, Latin American and East Asian materials, as well as the commissioning of Bill Reid's showpiece carving, Raven and the First Men.

"Walter Koerner's generosity has enabled all of us who pass through this university to broaden our horizons and seek new ones," says UBC President David Strangway.

"His vision of the individual as a lifelong learner was supported time and again by his philanthropy, which also provided us with a common ground of understanding and a sense of universal literacy."

Koerner was born in northern Moravia, now part of the Czech Republic, in 1898. He emigrated to Canada in 1938 where he continued the family's centuries-old tradition of working in the forest industry.

With his brothers, Koerner founded the Alaska Pine and Cellulose Company, pioneering the use of western hemlock as a lumber product. He retired in 1972 to begin a full-time commitment to public service and philanthropy.

Koerner's association with UBC began in 1955 with a gift supporting the university's Slavonic Studies library collection. A year later he helped found the Friends of the University Library, and in 1958 made a gift that enabled the Main Library to undertake a much needed expansion.

He initiated the UBC Health Sciences Centre project, whose core pavilion is named for him, and chaired the centre from 1971 to 1980.

A former chair of the Board of Governors, Koerner's wide-ranging support and service to UBC was recognized with an honorary degree in 1973. In 1994, the university announced that its new humanities and social science research library would be named for Walter C. Koerner.

His support for library collections, medicine and other programs at UBC, as well as his generosity toward many other charitable causes in the community, continued throughout Koerner's life.

Members of the campus community are invited to attend the March 9 memorial service and the reception which follows in the foyer of the Koerner Ceramics Gallery. The service begins at 3:30 p.m.

Please fax acceptances to UBC's Ceremonies and Events Office at 822-9060.