Nipissing mourns loss of leading philanthropist Helen Vari

The Nipissing University community is mourning the loss of leading philanthropist and education advocate, Dr. Helen Vari, whose tireless support of education and generous contributions to student success will be felt for generations to come at Nipissing University and at institutions across the country. 

Helen Vari and her husband George came to Canada after the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Following her late husband’s footsteps, Vari was a lifelong supporter of education and was committed to ensuring students of all abilities and backgrounds had opportunities to study.  

The George and Helen Vari Foundation was created in 1984 to promote education in Canada and cultural and educational exchange, and has provided philanthropic gifts to a number of institutions across the country, including Nipissing. 

In 2022, The George and Helen Vari Foundation donated $1 million to Nipissing University to establish the George and Helen Vari BIPOC Student Scholarship and Bursary Fund and the George and Helen Vari Simulation Fund. These funds provide ongoing, meaningful financial support to students who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Colour, and will support the University's new Interprofessional Simulation Centre and its related programming. In recognition of this gift, two simulation labs within the Simulation Centre will be named the George and Helen Vari Simulation Labs. 

At the time of this transformative gift, Vari shared the following about her support of Nipissing: 

“My late husband George was a passionate advocate for education and its ability to transform lives. It is a privilege to be able to contribute to the success of Nipissing students and support them as they build their futures. I recently had the opportunity to visit the Nipissing campus and was deeply inspired by its students, the future vision for the University, and the institution’s commitment to student success.”   

In 2022, Vari formally joined the Nipissing community when she was presented with an honorary degree during the University’s spring convocation ceremonies. 

“Dr. Vari was a dear friend of mine and someone I deeply admired,” said Dr. Kevin Wamsley, President and Vice-Chancellor, Nipissing University. “Her generosity and passionate belief in the power of education to transform lives was inspiring, and she has left behind a wide-reaching legacy of support for students. On behalf of the Nipissing University community, I extend my sincere condolences to the entire Vari family and all those who had the privilege of knowing Madam Vari.”  

The Nipissing community is grateful for the meaningful legacy that Helen and George Vari have left behind, not only at Nipissing, but across the education sector.