Gerald Kristianson PhD is ‘paying it back’ and forward

25 Mar 2022

In 1962, Dr Gerald Kristianson (Gerry) was made an offer he could not refuse and found himself in Canberra, undergoing a PhD fellowship at the ANU Research School of the Social Sciences' (RSSS) School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR).

Gerry had declined an offer by Harvard University to study at ANU - which was less than twenty years old at the time - after receiving a generous international student fellowship from the Australian Government. Despite its relative youth, ANU was emerging as a top-tier research university, and the RSSS was setting the standard in terms excellence and opportunity within Australia.

After receiving his PhD in 1965, Gerry returned to Canada and took full advantage of opportunities his new degree provided. His subsequent professional career included full and part-time faculty appointments at five Canadian universities; service abroad as a Canadian diplomat in Japan, Korea and Guyana; work in British Columbia's legislature; and two decades managing Pacific Public Affairs, then British Columbia's leading governmental consulting firm.  Gerry has also been active in local, provincial and federal Canadian politics. Now semi-retired, Gerry and his wife Diana live on Piers Island, one of British Columbia's Gulf Islands, where Gerry is the captain in charge of medical first responders in the volunteer fire department.

Given his life's dedication to public service and education, Gerry recently took a step back and considered the value of his ANU PhD fellowship. He knows how valuable it is to him personally and feels a strong desire to give back to the nation that helped him so much early in his career. Gerry did the calculations, and he concluded the early fellowship he received had been worth $85,000 in today's Australian dollars. He then decided to reach out to ANU to not only pay it back but to pay it forward. Gerry decided to donate funding to help others doing research at the ANU School of Politics and International Relations, not just once but in perpetuity with the Gerald Kristianson Endowment.

In 2022, the Gerald Kristianson Endowment is now supporting three ANU academics with their research and training costs, a Lecturer and two PhD graduate students.

Gerry hopes his gift will inspire others. There were dozens of international students like himself who received fellowships in the 1960s and 1970s, most of whom went on to illustrious careers and are now in a similar position to pay it forward.

To this day, Gerry virtually attends SPIR seminars and stays in touch with faculty. He enjoys having a close relationship with his Canberra academic home and plans to visit again. In the meantime, he is content to know that he has found the perfect way to pay it back by paying it forward with his gift to ANU.

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