Austin has since established scholarships at a number of other academic institutions across Canada. He also gives to a range of community causes and health and international organizations.
At Concordia, Austin’s objective was to create a collection of awards to provide more opportunities for student recognition. “My belief about awards is that they should be distributed widely, to reach more people,” he says.
Austin’s academic field is electroacoustic studies. Electroacoustics can include creating soundscapes for visual media, designing sound effects for video games or crafting sonic environments to enhance emotions.
His giving to Concordia has helped establish the Electroacoustic Studies Award Endowment, and also goes towards the Student Emergency and Food Fund.
A nod to those from his past
Austin’s spirit of giving was inspired by those who helped him along his path growing up. Though he grew up in a very poor family, others around him encouraged and supported him to continue with his studies in music from a young age.
“I can’t pay back the people who have helped me — they are far out of my life now,” says Austin. “All I can do is try to do the same for others and hopefully they, too, will pass that on. It’s about helping people educate themselves.”
When he was younger, Austin recalls, “I was oblivious to those around me who were helping me on my way. It was only when I was over 25 years old that I began to take notice.”
The small acts of kindness he received along his way taught Austin to do the same for others, by helping them through award funding.
Through the years, Austin has named the awards he’s funded after some of the people who were influential in his life, such as the Hugh and Trudi Le Caine Award in Electroacoustics, named for the Canadian inventor Hugh Le Caine and his wife, and the AH and FB Austin Award in Electroacoustics, to celebrate the lives of his parents.
He likes to think that one day the students who receive these awards will in turn do the same thing — acknowledge what they have received and continue the act of giving for future generations.
“I also want to help mark people’s lives a little bit over the years,” Austin says. “In small ways, we can make the world a more equitable, understanding place.”
It’s Austin’s belief that no matter where you start, it all adds up. “It’s not about the money,” he says. “It’s about having the will to share.”