The Gift That Keeps on Giving – The Robert J. Malyk Scholarship for Biology

There’s something about Ridley – the experience, the traditions, the culture and the people. Each leaves its mark on you in a significant way and enriches your very being. Once you become a part of the Ridley experience, it’s hard not to take on a sense of responsibility for opening possibilities and opportunities for future generations of Ridleians.

For retired faculty member Robert (Bob) Malyk, it was not only Ridley’s commitment to service that inspired him to take positive action, but his bond with his students as well. Affectionately called “BioBob” by his students, Bob created a supportive learning environment in which students could flourish. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Bob and his students embarked on a journey in cutting-edge biology, which involved work in molecular genetics, DNA extractions and sequencing genomes as a part of the worldwide Human Genome project with at the University of Washington in Seattle. The students’ essential role and interest in these scientific initiatives was the spark that motivated Bob to further steer his students towards biomedical research.

In 2001, Bob endowed The Robert J. Malyk Scholarship for Biology to celebrate the highest academic standing in Ridley’s AP Biology course (now International Baccalaureate and Ontario Secondary School Diploma) and who would be continuing their post-secondary studies in Biology and Life Sciences. The first presentation of this scholarship took place at the 2004 Prize Day ceremony, naming Mary Rose Bufalino ’04 as the inaugural recipient. Three years after establishing the award, Bob received the Prime Minister’s Award and the Ontario Genomic Award, which he combined with his own financial contributions to sustain the endowment.

Since the scholarship’s inception, Bob has made it his personal mission to maintain contact with each recipient and to share their success stories.

Dr. Christy Walker ’07 felt that her shift into the sciences, which eventually led to her career as a Veterinarian, was partly due to the confidence gained from her experience with Bob as a teacher and winning this scholarship. She reflected fondly on her AP Biology class and Bob’s positive influence, saying, “he has an ability to inspire students to set goals above and beyond what they thought possible, to work hard to achieve them and somehow make the process fun at the same time; he continued to do that even after I left the walls of Ridley.”

Each year, Bob, who retired in 2011, reaches out to each past scholarship recipient to look into where their academics have taken them. With a genuine interest in maintaining connection with past students, Bob is committed to staying in touch through Facebook or email. “It is important for past recipients to recognize that I am genuinely interested in their academic and professional stories,” says Bob. “It is also critical for the current recipient to see who has gone before them and what achievements have been made.”

Similar to Christy, for Michael Szpejda ’08, it all began in the classroom. As a past recipient of the scholarship, Michael, who is finishing his third year of medical school at St. Georges University in Grenada, felt that having the scholarship as a motivator helped set students up for success. Bob created an air of friendly competition that kept pushing students throughout the year, keeping them focused on the long-term objectives.

Dr. Michael Dorrington, who won the award in 2006, reflects fondly on the scholarship, coveting it above other awards won because it represented a field he loved learning about, while giving him the confidence to pursue sciences. After receiving his doctorate in Medical Science (Infection and Immunity), Michael is now completing his research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) just outside of Washington, D.C. Even with his busy schedule, Michael enjoys maintaining his Ridley connection and shares, “personally, I love reading about all of the other awardees and the amazing variety in how we’ve grown since winning the prize.”

Bob believes scholarships and bursaries are an integral component at Ridley because they “provide validation of the recipient’s academic prowess and strength of character”. With the Robert J. Malyk Scholarship for Biology setting the bar high for science students at Ridley, a legacy has been created.

Bob’s story is just one of the many inspirational examples of how endowment can positively impact the trajectory of students’ lives. To learn more about ways you can make an impact, click here.

Read more about the scholarship’s influence on recent graduate, Ben Johnson ’17.

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