Scholarship provides support so that students can focus on their studies

When talented, motivated students started falling asleep in class, Saber Saleuddin knew something had to be done. But the pre-eminent York zoologist didn’t add a bullhorn and marching band to his teaching arsenal; he created a scholarship to help undergraduate students concentrate more on their studies and less on how they were going to pay for it.

“It became obvious to me that more and more students were taking on part-time jobs to make ends meet,” he says. “But part-time work quickly became full-time hours and classes – the very reason they came to York – began to take a back seat.”

Right: Professor Emeritus Saber Saleuddin (right) with his wife Shirley Robertson

With his wife, Shirley, a former student adviser in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, Saleuddin established the A. Saber M. Saleuddin Biology Scholarship in 2006 through the York University Foundation, to benefit exceptional third- or fourth-year biology students. The endowed award supports animal physiology majors with a cumulative grade point average of 7.5 who are also Ontario residents and in financial need.

“York made me what I am today,” says the professor emeritus, honoured as a University Professor in 2000 for his outstanding contributions to teaching and service. “When I retired, Shirley and I considered what we could do to thank York. We figured why not create something that will benefit students in perpetuity?”

He hopes the award, currently valued at $1,125, will provide the incentive some students need to knuckle down and earn admission to graduate school.

“I want to motivate exceptional students to become physiologists,” he explains.

Saleuddin was further inspired by the Ontario Trust for Student Support (OTSS) program, which matches every dollar donated to help address accessibility issues for postsecondary students. Annual income from their original investment of $12,500, matched by OTSS to create a named fund of $25,000, will help York biology students in perpetuity.

A graduate of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, Saleuddin completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and North Carolina’s Duke University before arriving at York in 1967. Over the next 35 years, he established an international reputation in animal physiology, while serving as Chair of the Department of Biology (1984-1986), Chair of the York Senate (1993-1994) and member of York University’s Board of Governors (1995-1997). Retired since 2002, Saleuddin remains editor of the prestigious Canadian Journal of Zoology, a position he has held since 1994. He also maintains a demanding teaching schedule.

“I feel very lucky to have built my career and my reputation at York,” he says. “If I can continue to help students, to motivate them to reach higher, it will give me great satisfaction.”

“Nothing,” he insists, “would be more satisfying.”