Betty Kennedy receives an honorary doctorate in law at the University of Victoria in 1988. (Courtesy of UVic Archives)

University of Victoria mathematician leaves $3.6 million to school after death

Endowed chair in mathematical biology created in honour of Betty Kennedy

When mathematician Betty Kennedy died, she left the University of Victoria – where she taught for nearly three decades – a $3.6 million gift. Now that money will go towards a $3 million endowed chair in mathematical biology.

Kennedy was an instrumental leader in the early development of UVic and helped found the school of nursing, social work, and health and information science.

The remaining $600,000 will be added to the existing Betty and Gilbert Kennedy entrance scholarships in engineering, law, math and music. Any additional funds received from Kennedy’s gift will go towards creating endowed graduate scholarships within the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, along with supporting other awards created by Kennedy.

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“She was a keen mentor to both students and colleagues,” says Professor Emeritus Pauline van den Driessche, who was a colleague and lifelong friend of Kennedy. “In addition to supporting and empowering generations of mathematicians and statisticians, her leadership played a pivotal role in starting the university’s much-lauded co-op program.”

In 1988, Kennedy received an honorary doctorate and in 2018 the Betty and Gilbert Kennedy Math & Stats Assistance Centre was renamed to honour her many years of teaching.

After her retirement in 1983, Kennedy served with many community groups such as Friends of the Royal BC Museum, Family and Children’s Services, the CRD Hospital and Health Planning Commission and the Galiano Island Parks and Recreation Commission.

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Kennedy and her husband also spent time at their Galiano cottage where she delved into her garden, becoming more interested in the interactions between the subjects of mathematics, statistics and biology.

“At the intersection of mathematics and biology is a critical area of study that allows us to better understand the impact of climate change, pest control and economics,” says van den Driessche. “But perhaps none of these applications is so prominent these days as that this area allows us to understand pandemics.”

Van den Driessche is at the centre of a small but prolific research team working in this area. Recently, UVic created a joint mathematics and biology degree option in response to student interest. The impact of these researchers has been particularly evident over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, working to understand how the disease spreads and estimate hidden cases.


 

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