Retired instructor marks decades-long career with a gift

Published on November 01, 2019

Mel Gowda creates a bequest in her will to support future students

When former NAIT instructor Mel Gowda returned to campus for the first time in several decades, she was surprised by how much growth had occurred.

When she retired 26 years ago, facilities like the HP Centre and Centre for Applied Technology weren’t even on the drawing board yet and, in fact, were just an empty field.

“It’s changed so much, it’s unbelievable,” Gowda says from the courtyard next to North Lobby, which remains one of her favourite spots on campus as it was during her time as an instructor.

Gowda recently reconnected with the polytechnic when she was looking for information about how to leave a gift in her will, and to commemorate a nearly 3-decade career.

“I believe in education. I feel education is one of the most important places I can donate,” she says.

While visiting campus, she leafed through the student yearbook The Northern Torch, which stirred up memories of those early days when she started as a temporary instructor in the winter of 1967.

A career dedicated to nutrition and education

When Gowda arrived at NAIT, the polytechnic had just opened its doors 5 years earlier. Campus was lively and she enjoyed the small class sizes as an instructor in the Dietary Technology program.

“I enjoyed teaching and I have good memories of NAIT.”

Mel Gowda, former NAIT instructor, sits in the courtyard near North Lobby with yearbook.In the years that followed, Gowda taught full-time, including courses on nutrition and preparing special diets for people with diabetes or heart conditions, as well as recordkeeping, anatomy, math and food preparation. By her retirement in 1993, she taught more than 500 graduates for careers as dietary technicians or nutritionists, mostly within hospitals.

“I enjoyed teaching and I have good memories of NAIT,” she says.

Some of those memories include helping students get involved with campus events like Open House. Gowda fondly remembers one of her classes sewing outfits to dress as a bunch of grapes and a watermelon to display their program to prospective students – winning a prize for best booth.

After retiring, Gowda became active in her community. She volunteered at her church and served on the board of the Alberta Seniors’ Communities and Housing Association. She occasionally returned to campus to visit former colleagues and attended Association of Retired NAIT Staff events, such as the annual general meeting and spring reception.

When Gowda updated her will in 2018, she wanted to include a bequest to support education. After all, she says, learning is what allowed her to support herself and enjoy a rewarding career.

Gift in will supports students in need

Education was an important value instilled in Gowda by her mother, Rose, and father, Faust. Her father, a dentist, ensured that she and her siblings all went to post-secondary. She earned a bachelor of science in home economics with an emphasis in nutrition, followed by a master’s degree that she paid for on her own living in New York.

“I found out just how expensive it was,” she recalls. “I had to pay for my meals, room and board, tuition fees and any travel when I was a student.”

When revising her will, Gowda decided to donate part of her retirement savings to educational charities close to her heart. In addition to supporting future students, her gift will create tax benefits for the beneficiaries of her estate.

Gowda’s charitable contribution will go to the NAIT Fund, which supports students’ highest priority needs. Donations help pay for learning spaces, scholarships and student services like mental health counselling.

“I hope my gift will help students be healthy, succeed in their studies and continue on to good careers.”

As an instructor, she often saw students struggling to balance their schoolwork and personal lives. So knowing that her gift will support students in need is gratifying.

“I saw students undergoing a lot of stress. I used to ask if they were well,” she says. “I hope my gift will help students be healthy, succeed in their studies and continue on to good careers.”

Find out more information on how to leave a legacy for future students.