Rick Hansen Institute poised to take lead

When Rick Hansen completes the 10th anniversary tour of his wheelchair odyssey around the globe later this month, he will turn his considerable energies to building -- figuratively and literally -- the Rick Hansen Institute.

"Certainly our dream is to have the institute housed in its own building on campus," said Edie Ehlers, the institute's financial administrator. "By the year 2000 if possible."

For the time being, the institute will continue to manage its research, rehabilitation and community-based programs out of Brock Hall.

Ehlers said the initial focus of the institute will be spinal cord injury and disability.

The university recently agreed to match a $1.5 million contribution by the Man in Motion Foundation to the Collaboration On Repair Discoveries (CORD) program. Two years ago, UBC matched a $500,000 donation by the foundation to create the Man in Motion Chair in Spinal Cord Research.

Ehlers said interest from the now $4-million endowment will go towards supporting the work of chairholder Wolfram Tetzlaff and Prof. John Steeves, UBC neuroscientist and director of CORD.

"We are very excited at the potential for us to become the leader in spinal cord research in Canada," said Ehlers. "The potential is tremendous."

The legacy of Hansen's journey 10 years ago is now valued at more than $60 million: $20 million in new income generated through partnership endowments; $20 million granted to spinal cord rehabilitation and research programs and the initial $20 million raised by the Man in Motion Tour.

Last fall, UBC's Board of Governors approved a plan to consolidate all endowments associated with Rick Hansen's name into a single entity called the Rick Hansen Trust. In January, UBC President David Strangway signed a memorandum of understanding to build the Rick Hansen Institute on campus with funds raised through the trust.

Hansen, a UBC alumnus and paraplegic since the age of 15, was appointed as a special consultant on disabilities to Strangway in 1989 and helped establish the Disability Resource Centre on campus which promotes the full participation of people with disabilities in post secondary education. The following year, the Rick Hansen National Fellow Program was created at UBC to foster international awareness of the potential of people with disabilities.

Hansen said the Rick Hansen Institute will provide research, resources and funding to teams of educators, community leaders, government partners, health care professionals, academics, organizations and private business.