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Siblings create scholarship that carries on their mother’s legacy

January 27, 2022
Feisal Patel, Fiona Gutierrez Patel and Ameen Patel as children.

Feisal Patel, Fiona Gutierrez Patel and Ameen Patel as children.

Julie Patel was widowed shortly after arriving as a new immigrant to Canada. With three children to care for, she worked hard and made sacrifices to ensure they had everything they needed to succeed, including an education. And still she found time to help the homeless and knit sweaters, socks and booties for the babies at St. Michael’s Hospital. Her philanthropic vision included one day assisting students financially in their pursuit of post-secondary education. It was in fulfilment of their late mother’s vision that siblings Feisal Patel, Ameen Patel and Fiona Patel Gutierrez formed The Julie Patel Foundation, which has been supporting deserving students at universities across Canada for many years. Recently, the foundation created The Julie Patel Foundation Award here at Ryerson, endowing support for racialized students in perpetuity.

“We wanted to do something in our mother’s memory that reflected our indebtedness to her and reflected her interests,” says Feisal, co-founder and co-president of the Foundation with his brother Ameen. (Feisal’s daughter, Zarina Patel Mehiu, serves as chief financial officer.) “We wanted the scholarships to benefit groups who often don’t have access to the same level of support as other students,” he adds.

Julie Patel (1930-2009)

Julie Patel (1930-2009)

The Award’s inaugural recipients are fourth-year early-childhood-education student, Nebil Shak, and criminology student Haben Dawit, also in his graduating year. 

For Nebil, with five siblings in his household and a lack of financial stability due to the pandemic, the scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time. “There is just so much going on in my life. This gives me hope and opens up a pathway for me that I can keep pushing forward with my education.”  

Following the completion of his degree at Ryerson, Nebil plans to attend teacher’s college and looks forward to adding to the number of early-childhood educators who identify as Black and male.

The Julie Patel Foundation Award also came at just the right time for Haben. He had already submitted his applications for law schools and the financial consideration had started to weigh on his decisions. With the award, he felt reassured that he was making the right choice and would be able to relieve some of his (and his parents’) financial burden.

“I am very grateful for opportunities like this that address systemic barriers in post-secondary education,” says Haben. “It’s great that the award can serve to remove some of the hurdles in place that inhibit Black and racialized prosperity in academia,” he adds.

By all accounts, Julie Patel’s vision is being realized.

“We owe our mother a tremendous debt of gratitude,” says Feisal. “This is a way to keep her memory alive.”

To learn more about the Julie Patel Foundation visit (external link) . If you are interested in supporting students like Nebil and Haben at Ryerson University, please visit our online giving page.