Koerner Foundation


By Pamela Yan

For more than seven decades, UBC has benefited from the tremendous friendship and support of the Walter C. Koerner family.

After immigrating to Canada from Czechoslovakia, Walter Koerner co-founded the Alaska Pine Company in 1939 with brothers Otto and Leon. The company became a major player in Canada’s forestry industry. Following retirement in 1972, Walter devoted himself to public service and philanthropy.

Walter committed fifteen years to UBC’s Board of Governors, five years as Board Chair. UBC also benefited from his appreciation of art, culture and learning. The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and the Library hold many of their most significant collections thanks to Walter’s generosity. In 1967 Walter was awarded the Companion of the Order of Canada and an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from UBC in 1973.

Walter’s vision and philanthropy continues under the leadership of his son, Michael Koerner, who established the Koerner Foundation in 1983, and which supports many organizations in Ontario and B.C. The foundation’s support of UBC includes the MOA, the Faculty of Medicine, the Library, and the Faculty of Forestry’s research forest at Loon Lake.

Michael and his wife Sonja have made important contributions to Canadian culture including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Conservatory of Music, Sunnybrook Hospital, and CAMH. Michael, a graduate of MIT in Chemical Engineering and Harvard (MBA), is recognized for his business leadership and served on the boards of several major Canadian companies. He received the Order of Canada in 1984.

The Koerner family’s long tradition of engagement with UBC continues with the third and fourth generations. Michael and Sonja’s daughter, Jacqueline lends her time and expertise to UBC’s start an evolution Campaign Cabinet and the MOA Advisory Board, while completing her PhD in Geography. Walter Koerner’s great grandchildren Julian Yeo, Giuliana and Francesca Bianco are UBC students.


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