Graphic design student Mariah Unger achieved her goal of attending OCAD U, but was unable to realize her dream of studying abroad for a semester, as part of th Student Mobility/Exchange Program. She passed away in January, 2012 — just four weeks before she would have turned 20 — as a result of complications from lymphoma, a type of cancer. Now, however, a new scholarship created in her memory by her parents will make it possible for other OCAD U students to fulfill their dreams of studying abroad.
Making dreams happen
Beginning with the 2014 winter semester, Mariah’s Fund will help one graphic design student each year with the costs of studying abroad. Students will be selected based on strong academic standing in liberal arts, creativity, talent and passion.
"The ideal recipient for Mariah’s Fund will be a student who holds the same characteristics as Mariah — someone with the same quiet determination and drive that she had,” says Philip Unger, Mariah’s father, a graphic designer, the founder of Method Branding and an instructor at OCAD U. “When she was going through chemotherapy she was still concerned about handing in her assignments on time. She was really passionate about her studies. She was proud of what I did, but she was her own person and wanted to do this on her terms, on her own.”
Unger says that receiving acceptance to OCAD U was one of the happiest days of Mariah’s life. “She was literally singing and dancing for days afterwards.” He says she attended classes throughout her treatments as an integral part of her struggle to not let cancer define her.
An outpouring of support
When Unger began raising funds for the scholarship, together with the assistance of Rose Anne McCants, Stacy Kelly and other staff from the OCAD U Development Office, his original goal was to raise $21,000, to commemorate what would have been Mariah’s 21st birthday. Friends, family, people from the OCAD U community, Unger’s professional contacts and others rallied around the Unger family in support, many donating in denominations of 21, and some pledging annual donations. The fund, which to date has raised close to $57,000 — its initial target several times over — is still open for contributions. The more it raises, the more students it will be able to assist.
In addition to an initial start-up amount, Unger and his family made an initial contribution so that the fund would be able to start assisting students sooner, in the winter, 2014 semester. The latter donation was made in honour of Michael Desjardins, Mariah’s favourite teacher at OCAD U, who is in hospital after a serious bicycle accident a year ago.
“Mariah’s Fund will be here long after we’re gone,” says Unger. “The fund will be here a hundred years from now, and that’s something we couldn’t have done without the generosity of a lot of people, both from within the OCAD U community, and those from outside OCAD U. I am humbled and amazed by how many people care.”
Application details will be available soon on the Scholarships & Awards page