Photo credit: Order of BC

Lifelong Vancouver philanthropist, volunteer and business leader Ronald Laird Cliff always demonstrated an unwavering commitment to bettering communities and to the role that education played in supporting that ambition.

For Ron, who passed away late in 2022, that commitment to Pearson College UWC extended from before the College welcomed its first cohort of students in 1974 to this year, in the form of an extraordinary $150,000 Renew and Re-found Campaign legacy gift to continue his support in perpetuity through the College’s endowment.

“Ron believed very strongly in endowments for the future and particularly in the world of education,” his daughter Diana Maughan wrote in a recent message on behalf of the family to the College. “He was extremely honoured to serve as (Pearson Board of Directors) Treasurer for many years and assist in the school’s financial stewardship.”

Pearson’s Director of Advancement and External Relations Carly Milloy said support from Ron during his lifetime and through this legacy gift has changed the lives of many young people who were able to learn at Pearson over the span of nearly five decades.

“Ron’s final act of generosity was to leave a legacy by disbursing all funds from his foundation (the Heathcliff Foundation) to support a number of causes close to his heart, including Pearson, an enduring statement of the values he wanted to pass on to future generations,” she added. “As we approach our 50th anniversary, more and more people I talk to are making a commitment to the College that extends beyond their lifetime to ensure that this special place continues to thrive for the next half-century.”

Through the Ronald L. Cliff Annual Scholarship, established in 2014, Ron funded numerous student scholarships for determined young leaders, helping to ensure that more students could experience a Pearson education regardless of their financial means. As a strong champion of the UWC movement, Ron joined the Board of Directors in 1982, serving in a number of capacities for two decades and was later named a Patron of the College.

Tony Macoun, former Head of School and later Chair of the Pearson Board of Directors, recalled that his colleague, “Had a remarkable grasp of figures and a memory and understanding of the College’s finances that were second to none. Ron had a great sense of humor and clearly enjoyed his connection with the College, always taking time to meet with students when he visited.”

Born in Vancouver, and a member of the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada for his service to the community, Ronald L. Cliff, CM, OBC, FCA, B.Comm., attended St. George’s School and graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1949. Early in his career, his entrepreneurial spirit took him into the realm of developing, financing and managing a wide range of businesses, as well as using his accountancy training to serve as treasurer and advisor to many organizations. He touched countless lives with his long and remarkable history of supporting charitable causes such as the Vancouver Symphony Society and Foundation, UBC, SFU, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, and other arts, education and health organizations.