Alumnus encourages students to pursue learning outside of the classroom
Georg Wowk (Instrumentation Engineering Technology ’71) is fond of saying that he would mess up NAIT during the day, and his father would clean it up at night. Back then, NAIT was preparing the son for a career, while employing his father as a janitor.
The German family of Ukrainian ancestry landed in Halifax after the Second World War—they were among the 157,000 displaced persons Canada accepted—settling in what could only be described as a shack. It had a dirt floor covered with cardboard. Eventually, the family built a new house in town.
Later, the family moved to Edmonton, where his father worked in slaughterhouses and eventually opened a furrier store on 118th Avenue
“When I went to NAIT, I remember how difficult financially it was for me. I wanted to help students today who may be in the same boat I was. This will help them take advantage of the full NAIT.”
“We never had money,” says Wowk, recalling how he had to go without books or paper in high school. “It certainly made me independent,” he says, joking that he had three pairs of socks he would rotate wearing.
While studying electronics to prepare for instrumentation at NAIT, he confesses he was never a great student. But he did embrace extracurricular activities. He was a writer and later editor for the student newspaper, The Nugget. He got involved with NAIT Students’ Association (NAITSA) and he played on the Ooks curling team.
It was time to start his own business
After Wowk graduated, he worked in the business for about a decade. Then, in 1981, it came to a crashing halt as Alberta hit the skids. The economy tanked and Wowk found himself out of work.
Wowk had plenty of contacts within industry and solid work skills, so he decided to start his own Edmonton-based business, Jaron Wolff Ltd., selling the McDaniel line of pressure gauges. He admits times were grim, but when the economy began to emerge from the recession in the mid-1980s, business improved.
“I decided to do something for the students of NAIT and the institution.”
Jaron Wolff Ltd. became one of the oil industry’s go-to shops for three things: purchasing products, servicing and troubleshooting. The 1990s proved to be much more profitable—to his relief. At its peak, the company employed 6 people. Today, its client base still includes the oil sector and has expanded to include businesses in the petrochemical manufacturing plants, food, aviation and railway industries.
Helping students in need
Several years ago, Wowk decided to sell the south Edmonton company to its employees and use the proceeds to do some good.
Donating to NAIT seemed like a natural next step.
“I decided to do something for the students of NAIT and the institution,” says Wowk, who felt incredibly grateful for the education he received and wanted to repay in some small way for the benefit granted to him and his family. Part of it, too, was the example set by other alumni-turned-donors.
The Heather and Georg J.P. Wowk Bursary
Wowk started in 2013 with a donation to the annual giving program. Then in 2017, he established student bursaries and has also included a substantial legacy gift in his will to NAIT.
The Heather and Georg J.P. Wowk Bursary, valued at $2,500, is available to 4 students annually over the next decade. The bursaries are awarded to second-year students involved with activities like The Nugget, Campus Ambassador program, NAITSA, student clubs and others and who demonstrate financial need. The bursary was disbursed for the first time in December 2017.
Published on March 16, 2018