Vasant Saklikar's legacy to the community will live on in a scholarship named in his honour.
The Reverend Vasant Saklikar Memorial Scholarship is given out to four outstanding students from the Lijiang No. 1 High School in Lijiang, China. The scholarship, which is given out to students in New Westminster's sister city in China, allows the students to attend New Westminster Secondary School for two months.
Renee Saklikar, Vasant's daughter, recently told city council that it's an amazing honour for her father to be recognized in this manner.
Saklikar, a longtime school trustee and the 1999 New Westminster Citizen of the Year, was also the minister at Sixth Avenue United Church for many years and one of the founders of the local food bank. He passed away in April 2002.
Trustee Michael Ewen said the scholarship was set up last year to formalize the relationship that the city established with Lijiang.
"Vasant was a throwback. He was an absolute gentleman," Ewen said. "He held strong principled positions. He would not give an inch - but always in the most respectful way."
Ewen recalled how Saklikar expressed concern about children going hungry in the community and the need to take action - even when others didn't recognize it as an issue. He said it's an honour to be able to present scholarships in Saklikar's name and to bring young women to Canada to study in the years to come.
Ewen credited Coun. Lorrie Williams for instigating the scholarship for students to study in New Westminster.
"I was brought into the Kiwanis Club by Vasant, who decided he liked the club and had a great time there but thought women should be allowed in," said Williams. "I was the first female join the Kiwanis club in British Columbia. This is the kind of man he was."
Williams insisted that the scholarship be offered to young women, noting there isn't a level playing field as far as education goes in some countries. The women applying for the scholarship must be daughters of farmers (who would otherwise be very unlikely to get this type of opportunity) and are top English students in their levels.
"It's amazing the transformation that takes place . they just blossom here," she said about the impact of the students' time in Canada.
Mayor Wayne Wright said officials in China originally rejected the city's proposal to offer a scholarship for girls, saying they wanted boys. When a compromise of two boys and two girls was suggested, Wright said Williams insisted it had to be all girls - a move that Chinese officials later said was the right decision.
"They were given an opportunity in life that its seldom you do," Wright said.
In recent years, New Westminster Secondary School students have also been able to apply for the Reverend Dr. Vasant Saklikar Scholarship.