Darol and Evelyn Wigham’s history of generosity roots back to one main thing: gratitude for their own paths through life. Their daughter, Patricia Pennock (BEd ’81), says her father, who passed away in 2009, and mother, who passed away in 2021, never lost sight of what their own educations brought them.

“My parents both earned their geology degrees from the University of Alberta, and they were so grateful for both the education they received as well as the wonderful experiences and lifelong friendships they gained on that path,” Pennock says.

The Wighams have a long history of giving back to post-secondary institutions across Alberta. That gratitude extended to the University of Lethbridge when Patricia began her journey as a student in the Faculty of Education.

“They were so pleased with the education I was offered, but it wasn’t just the education, it was the entire experience of being a part of the Lethbridge community,” she says. “It was just a real breath of fresh air to be in Lethbridge after growing up in Calgary; my classes were so small, and you really got to know your fellow students and professors in such a personal way.”

Shortly after Patricia completed her Bachelor of Education in 1981, her parents began what has now been more than 40 years of giving back to ULethbridge. While the Wighams’ generosity can be seen in many areas of the institution, the family’s biggest impact has been felt in the Faculty their daughter called home.

Their philanthropic commitment started in the Faculty of Education’s Curriculum Lab; a key space for soon-to-be teachers, who utilize the resources housed there as they train to teach foundational literacy skills and formulate engaging lesson plans. The initial gift from Darrol and Evelyn resulted in the addition of more than 3,000 children’s books and the creation of the Wigham Family Collection, which stands as the largest collection of donated children’s books ever received by the University. More recently, graduate students in the Faculty’s Master of Counselling and Master of Education in Counselling Psychology programs have benefitted from updated learning spaces thanks to the family, as they put practical skills to the test in the Wigham Counselling Labs.

Perhaps the most personal impact made by the Wighams’ generosity can be seen as students are selected for the Wigham Family Professional Inquiry Project Prize. The $1,250 award has been given to up to four students each year since November of 2019, recognizing the most outstanding Professional Inquiry Projects (PIPs) completed by student teachers during their final four-month practicums.

Students use their PIPs as an opportunity to explore and analyze a teaching-related topic of personal interest. They can then choose to present their PIPs during the Faculty’s biannual PS III Launch Day during the PIP Symposium, with a committee from the Faculty then selecting the winners of the Wigham Family PIP Prize.

Three winners were selected following the Fall 2023 symposium, including Eric Garner, who’s project Enhancing Musical Mastery: The Influence of Explicit Executive Functioning Instruction explored how executive functioning skills in his instruction might impact students’ performance of musical tasks.

“Sharing my project at the PIP Symposium was motived by a desire to showcase the transformative potential of integrating executive functioning skills into music education,” Garner says. “Learning I was selected for the Wigham Family Professional Inquiry Project Prize was a moment of immense gratitude and validation. The award serves as a testament to the importance of innovative approaches in teaching, reinforcing my commitment to pushing boundaries and enhancing the educational experience for students.”

Alex McEwan’s project, AI Socratic Seminars and Other AI Utilizations, was also selected by the committee in Fall 2023. He also found the recognition validating, saying it instilled confidence in his teaching abilities and has encouraged a commitment to lifelong learning and development of his practice.

“The real impact lies in how my project positively influenced my students,” McEwan says. “By integrating AI into the classroom, they gained confidence, demonstrated growth in handling complex concepts and embraced AI as a valuable study tool. The success of my project not only improved the learning experience, but also created avenues for more meaningful lessons and opportunities for my students.”

The third and final winner, Bennett Kubitz, says he presented his project, Teaching Grade 7 Students How to ChatGPT Without Getting Caught, because he believed in its value; winning the Wigham award was just an unexpected and rewarding surprise to cap off his PIP Symposium experience.

“Amidst a sea of exceptional projects that were significantly advancing education, I was sincerely honoured to have been chosen,” Kubitz says. “Its impact has been profound; notably easing the financial burden of my final semester at the University.”

Evelyn and Darol’s daughter says knowing her parents are still making a difference makes her very proud.

“They had so much gratitude as they reflected on their opportunity to receive such amazing educations and for my education, and with heartfelt appreciation they just wanted to provide opportunities for others to learn as well,” she says.

“And they were always hopeful that they could inspire others to feel that they too could be benevolent donors. The amount was not important, but rather the chance to support the community for a stronger future.”

Together, we inspire leaders, innovators, thinkers and doers.

Learn more about giving at ULethbridge and the Board of Governors’ $10 million pledge to match funds for the establishment of endowed student scholarships.

Read the 2022-2023 Donor Impact Report