Sept. 12, 2017

'Ignitors' like Cynthia Prasow part of a growing Campus Giving community

Werklund staff member helps bring a passion for philanthropy to UCalgary

Part way through a brief history of her philanthropic life, Cynthia Prasow interrupts herself to quietly say: “I just want this to be a good world.”

Prasow, MEd’92, is director of student experiences at the Werklund School of Education. Through her philanthropic support of Energize: The Campaign for Eyes High, she is now also an “Ignitor” — that is, a UCalgary employee who, as part of a new Campus Giving program, is recognized for her part in elevating excellence on campus.

As part of the program, employees like Prasow who make a gift to UCalgary, are acknowledged with an “Ignitor” pennant. Ultimately, the ongoing Campus Giving program strives to strengthen and build a lively and meaningful culture of philanthropy on campus through recognizing and thanking faculty and staff donors.

Prasow’s position at Werklund — one of many roles she has held in the faculty since 1984 — is a never-dull combination of guidance counsellor, lawyer, social worker and teacher. “I’ve loved every job I’ve had here, starting with supervising student teachers in schools,” she says. “The first time I stepped onto this campus, I loved it and I still do.”

It’s tough to imagine Prasow almost didn’t set foot on this or any campus, even as a student. “I was born to a family who didn’t have a lot,” she says. “I wanted to go to university, but we had no money.” Smiling, she adds, “That didn’t stop me.”

Prasow took out a student loan to pay for her undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta, which she eventually paid off just before her first daughter was born; she later graduated from the University of Calgary with a master’s degree in education.

As a faculty member, Prasow has been inspired to make things a little easier on students pursuing her shared passion — early childhood education. On Giving Day in April 2017, she topped up a scholarship she’d created on her birthday a few years back. “I told my loved ones that I didn’t need a single thing for my birthday — I just wanted them to instead contribute to this fund to benefit a second-year student who could really shine,” she says.

Admittedly, Prasow is a pro at seeking out meaningful causes to direct her giving and rallying others to give, as well. She grew up practicing the Jewish mitzvah of tzedakah; that is, that act of charitable giving.

“Philanthropy has always been part of my family,” she says. “My parents taught us to give to others, no matter how little we had, and my mother was a consummate volunteer.”

Prasow has since honoured her family and her faith through decades of fundraising for various causes.

An idealist, an optimist and a lifelong giver, Prasow has a big dream: that philanthropy and volunteerism become officially embedded in the curricula and culture of all schools, starting in kindergarten. Certainly, the future teachers she interacts with every day are influenced by Prasow’s generous spirit — a perspective that will undoubtedly trickle down to their future students.

Learn more about the Campus Giving program and meet other Ignitors at ucalgary.ca/campusgiving