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Business school pioneer Ulrike de Brentani supports key scholarships for women

Gift to the Campaign for Concordia targets Business Technology Management program at the John Molson School of Business
February 18, 2022
By Ian Harrison, BComm 01

Ulrike de Brentani Ulrike de Brentani served as a professor at Concordia for close to a half a century. Her career began at Loyola College’s Faculty of Commerce in 1970.

A generous gift from a Concordia trailblazer is supporting efforts to advance equity, diversity and inclusion at the John Molson School of Business.

Ulrike de Brentani, BComm 68, MBA 73, whose remarkable professorial career began at Loyola College’s Faculty of Commerce in 1970, has donated more than $32,000 to the Campaign for Concordia.

Her gift will fund one annual scholarship for a Canadian woman undergraduate enrolled in Business Technology Management for a period of 10 years.

“I wanted to give back largely because of my own experiences as a student,” says de Brentani, who took retirement in 2017. “I got quite a bit of support as an undergraduate and especially when undertaking my PhD.”

The gift from the former Department of Marketing professor, award-winning researcher and faculty administrator comes on the heels of several initiatives at the John Molson School aimed at increasing female representation both at the university and in top positions in the workplace.

These initiatives include: the Barry F. Lorenzetti Centre for Women Entrepreneurship and Leadership, a gift from the Aune Foundation to support women in finance, a gift from Quadbridge to provide scholarships to encourge women to succeed in the technology sector and, notably, a second consecutive Parity Certification from Women in Governance.

“I’m thrilled that a pioneer like Ulrike de Brentani, who for years was the sole woman faculty member at our business school, has given back in this meaningful way,” says Dean Anne-Marie Croteau.

“Ulrike was an inspiring professor and during her career at Concordia and held positions as associate dean, Research, and academic administrator of the PhD and MSc programs in business. She mentored female colleagues, fought for pay equity and spearheaded research policy developments for the faculty.

“It’s fitting that her legacy now includes this scholarship fund that will encourage more women to contribute to such a dynamic field.”

Business technology management graduates typically take up careers as project managers and information systems analysts at firms like Ericsson, IBM and Air Canada. But, as a 2019 report by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has indicated, women are clearly underrepresented in this very important sector. Given this context, a targeted gift made the most sense, explains de Brentani.

“I wanted to donate to an area that is relevant to the Canadian economy and where women can make a valuable contribution in top-level jobs.”

‘I would try to provide the kind of support that was available to me’

Ulrike de Brentani with colleagues Marc Comeau and Roland Wills in a photo from a 1989 Thursday Report article highlighting the faculty members’ contributions to Concordia. | Photo: Ronald Simon

The daughter of German immigrants, de Brentani grew up knowing that her parents couldn’t afford to send their eight children to university.

She had a full-time job for three years after graduating from high school and enrolled in 1964 in the Faculty of Commerce at Sir George Williams University, one of Concordia’s two founding institutions. To fund her education, she used her savings and worked every summer, getting jobs that obliged her to rely on previous experience and also what she had learned in her studies.“In my second year, I got a scholarship that paid for my books. The third year brought another scholarship that helped pay my fees. And, when I graduated in 1968, I received the Frosst medal for top graduate in the faculty. I really appreciated all that support.”

Her work ethic, combined with other incentives and forms of support, helped de Brentani complete her MBA at Sir George — “It was the only university in Montreal where you could do your MBA part-time at night” — and then in 1977 begin PhD studies at McGill University.

“Times were different then. The landscape is very competitive for students now and there’s less money to go around. That’s why I told myself that if I ever got the chance, I would try to provide the kind of support that was available to me.”

De Brentani’s gift to facilitate scholarships for women in business technology management is a testament to her affinity for Concordia, her second home for more than half a century.

The university is also where de Brentani met her husband, Martial Todorovic, BA 66. The couple have a daughter, Daina Todorovic, BComm 98, who, like mom, is a business school grad, too.

“Concordia has one of the best commerce programs in the country,” says de Brentani. “Why would I have sent her anywhere else?”

Join Ulrike de Brentani's support of tomorrow’s leaders by visiting the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen Now.

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