The University of Alberta has returned a $30,000 donation from the family of Yaroslav Hunka, apologizing for any hurt caused by receiving the endowment in his name.
“The university recognizes and regrets the unintended harm caused,” Verna Yiu, interim provost and vice-president of the university, said in a statement.
“On behalf of the university, I want to express our commitment to address anti-Semitism in any of its manifestations, including the ways in which the Holocaust continues to resonate in the present.”
Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian, was invited to Ottawa last week for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to Parliament, where he was recognized by Speaker Anthony Rota and received a standing ovation.
It was eventually revealed that the man Zelenskyy and others were cheering belonged to the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, also known as the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit that was part of Adolf Hitler’s army during WWII.
Following the disclosure of Hunka’s background, the university stated that it has begun a review of the $30,000 endowment fund in Hunka’s name.
According to the institution, Hunka’s family donated the donation to the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies in 2019.
People can make donations to the University of Alberta, which are either invested on their own or pooled with other endowments to create interest that can be used to pay bursaries and researchers.
The university said it is reviewing how it names endowments and other donations, as well as its endowment policies and procedures, “to ensure alignment with our values.”
The university’s endowment has generated an average yearly return of 9.6 percent over the last decade, ending in March of last year.
The university’s endowment is administered by the Board Investment Committee. According to the board’s 2022 report, the endowment assets total $1.6 billion.
According to the report, the university’s endowment has allowed it to spend $425 million on scholarships and research over the last ten years, with $57 million distributed in 2022.