Retirement of the Foundation’s founder, Dr. Ron Woznow.

25 Jul 2021 6:00 AM | Anonymous

The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation announces the retirement of the Foundation’s founder, Dr. Ron Woznow.

In 2008, while Chief Executive Officer of the Advanced Food and Materials Network, Ron established the Family Food Research Foundation (Foundation). The mandate of the Foundation was to create educational opportunities. In 2009, eight Indigenous high school students from across Canada participated in the first “Be a Food Research for a Week” (Program).

In 2011, Ron ended his 40-year career as a CEO and Board chair of companies and charities and became a full-time volunteer for the Foundation. In 2012 he approached Dr. Verna Kirkness to lend her name to both the Foundation and the Program. Both now bear her name, the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation and its lead Program “Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Program”.

During the last 12 years Ron, and his wife Susan, have built a strong volunteer charitable organization that has allowed the Program to grow from 8 students in 2008 to a total of 550 students in 2019. When COVID-19 made 2020 and 2021 Programs impossible Ron worked with volunteers including, 10 faculty from 5 universities to provide a virtual Program.

The Foundation is in an excellent position to continue to grow. There is a commitment from 98 professors at 12 universities to host Indigenous high school students for the week-long research Program. Unlike many programs for high school students, the Kirkness Scholars spend a week doing hands on research. On average 3 students are mentored by a professor and their research team.

As a volunteer Ron has served Foundation in the capacity of Executive Director, Chairman of the Board and Director. While Ron’s term on the Board will end on September 15, 2021 he will continue to advise the new management team.

Ron and Susan are living in Powell River, BC. We wish them well in all of their endeavors.

About the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation 

The Foundation was founded in 2008 by Ron Woznow and Susan O’Brien and was originally named the Family Food Research Foundation. It is a registered Canadian charity. Its goal was to increase the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students graduating from post-secondary science programs.

In 2008, Dr. Woznow was the CEO of the Advanced Food and Material Network (AFMNet). In 2008, 2009 and 2010 the Foundation received seed funding from AFMNet. The first program was started in 2009 and was called the “Be a Food Researcher for a Week” which provided an opportunity for students to spend a week on campus learning about food research and the support that was available to them if they did post-secondary studies. This program was modeled after the “Be a Genetic Researcher for a Week” program which Dr. Woznow started in 2001 while he was the CEO of the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network. 

In 2010, Dr. Emoke Szathmary, the past president of the University of Manitoba, introduced Ron to Dr. Verna Kirkness who was widely regarded as the leading Indigenous educator in Canada. She was supportive of foundation’s goal and agreed to lend her name to the foundation which was renamed the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation. In 2013, the Foundation expanded the scientific scope of its program to include research in both science and engineering and renamed the program the “Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program”. 

From 2012-2014, the Program was offered at the University of Manitoba. In 2015, a Program was added at the University of Saskatchewan and in 2016 at the University of British Columbia. In 2018, the Program expanded to the University of Calgary, First Nations University of Canada and the University of Ottawa. In 2019, Programs were added at the University of Victoria and University of Alberta bringing the number of programs to 8. 130 students from across Canada attended the 2019 Programs and were mentored by 53 Professors and their research associates.

For more information about the Foundation please visit or contact Dr. Ron Woznow, Executive Director,

For information about supporting the Foundation please contact Tony C.L. Williams, Chair of the Board of Directors

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