Ernie Gare Scholarship

Recognizing excellence in athletics and education for over 50 years.

Canada's First Athletic Scholarship

Since 1964, over 200 student-athletes from School District #8 in Nelson and the surrounding areas of British Columbia have been awarded the Ernie Gare Scholarship. As Athletic Director at Notre Dame University, Ernie Gare founded the Scholarship - the first of its kind in Canada - to acknowledge and support local students who demonstrated the very best in athletics, academic, leadership, and integrity.

After Ernie's passing from Lou Gehrig's disease (commonly referred to as ALS) at the age of 52, family, friends, and business leaders in Nelson were determined to continue on with and grow the Ernie Gare Scholarship, in honour of Ernie’s impact and legacy.

For over five decades, successful recipients have been supported with their post-secondary endeavours in academic institutions across Canada. And today, the Ernie Gare Scholarship is one of the longest-standing and most prestigious scholarships in British Columbia.

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Congratulations to the 2023 Scholarship Recipients!

The Ernie Gare Scholarship is now the longest-running in Canada, and is proud to have awarded over $300,000 to deserving students.

2021 Scholarship Recipients

About Ernie Gare’s Legacy and Impact

Ernie Gare’s life was lived with quiet purpose and example, and his wife Cathy, 6 children, 19 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren are very proud to grow and evolve his core mission - to provide deserving students with financial support to help them pursue their athletic and academic aspirations.

In 1964, the late Ernie Gare, who at the time was the Athletic Director at Notre Dame University in Nelson, BC had a strong belief and vision that individuals could further their post-secondary education by using their athletic abilities as a ‘means to an end’.

Ernie’s approach and formula was proven successful by both the members of the Canadian National Olympic Ski Team and the Nelson Senior Maple Leaf Hockey Club. For ten years under Ernie’s guidance, over 70 student-athletes graduated to successful academic careers.

Ernie Gare was inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998, as a result of earning the respect and admiration of people across the country for his generous contributions and improvements to the game of hockey, to sport and to academics.

In 1982, a year after his untimely death from Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) at the age of 52, a group of dedicated Nelson citizens, together with his wife Cathy, gathered with the singular purpose of maintaining the Ernie Gare Scholarship’s mission and commitments.

The success of the Scholarship is due to the ongoing support of the local community in Nelson and surrounding areas. The Gare family greatly appreciates the commitment and work of all volunteers and board members throughout the years, especially the Gare grandchildren.

Ernie Gare’s legacy lives on through the longstanding impact of his passion, commitment and dedication to family, sport, academics, and community.

BC Hockey Hall of Fame
BC Hockey
The Nelson Daily

Apply Today and Invest in Your Future

Ernie Gare believed young people were our most important resource and he dedicated his life to this mantra and vision. The Ernie Gare Scholarship welcomes applicants who take pride in and prioritize their education as well as their athletics. We encourage athletes of any sport to apply!

Check out our Community Events or Volunteer with Us!

Since the early 1980’s, Nelson and area residents have volunteered and participated in many events that have benefited the Ernie Gare Scholarship. Annual fundraising events have included men’s and women’s golf tournaments, youth street hockey tournaments, family bike-a-thons, Celebrity dinners and auctions, mid-summer hockey games and social mixers.

In 1996, in conjunction with Hockey Canada, the Ernie Gare Scholarship was proud to Co-Sponsor the Air Canada Pacific Cup held in Nelson, BC - featuring the top 18U National Hockey Teams from Canada, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Recently, Ernie Gare’s grandchildren have organized an annual youth soccer tournament and skills clinic in his honour - The Gare Cup.

Ernie Gare believed that participation in sport helped in developing the ‘whole person’ and was instrumental in imparting valuable life lessons. If you are interested in continuing to support Ernie Gare’s legacy through volunteering to help at future upcoming events, please reach out to us at

"Economically speaking he saved my life. I am forever grateful to Ernie Gare for that. It was the greatest gift a person could ever receive. I would never have gone to Law School but for Ernie's involvement in my life.”

Gail (Knobby) Holden, Spokane, Wash., lawyer and former Nelson Maple Leaf

“I’m very proud to have been a part of the Ernie Gare Athletic Scholarship Program and also very fortunate to have been one of Ernie Gare’s students. His foresight to combine education and athletics worked and will continue through us and our younger generation who wish to pursue their athletic career through his academic program.”

Brian Russill, Nelson businessman and former Nelson Maple Leaf

“The Ernie Gare Scholarship provided me with the opportunity to further my education and hockey career, meet my wife Ann, raise a family and establish a teaching career in Nelson. That the Scholarship program continues to encourage our youth to pursue their dreams is testimonial to Ernie Gare’s vision of combining education and athletics.”

Bill McDonnell, retired school teacher and former Nelson Maple Leaf

"The Ernie Gare Scholarship Society’s real success comes in its dedication to providing the opportunity for young men and women to pursue post-secondary education. Ernie Gare Sr. exemplified the pure joy that an individual can experience by combining education and sport – Ernie lived both.”

Bill Kestell, University of Alberta Graduate, Bachelor of Sciences, Forestry

“The vision of Ernie Gare in designing the first athletic Scholarship program in Canada was of enormous benefit to me. Not only was the Scholarship of great help in attaining my educational goals, but the atmosphere, the feeling of “community”, and the goals of striving for excellence had an impact on me and my family that we will carry through life.”

The late, Ted Hargreaves , Teacher, Trafalgar Junior High School

"The Ernie Gare Scholarship provided me with the opportunity to pursue my dream of becoming an educator within the realm of physical and health education. Through receiving the Ernie Gare Scholarship, I have now gained the access to life changing opportunities to work with other students, youth and community members both in Victoria and at home in the Kootenays."

Rylee Zondervan, 2019 Recipient, University of Victoria Student

“To be a recipient of the Ernie Gare Athletic Scholarship is to be acknowledged for the very values Ernie himself stood for : integrity, accountability, resiliency, dependability and the successful pursuit of excellence . Being awarded this Scholarship is a powerful message that speaks to one’s massive potential as a human being.“

Tom Renney, CEO Hockey Canada, Former NHL and Canadian Olympic Head Coach

"As a former member of the board of the Ernie Gare Scholarship Society, I witnessed firsthand the difference Scholarships made in the lives of young athletes."

John Dooley, Mayor, City of Nelson

"Ernie Gare created the first athletic Scholarships offered at a Canadian university. Canadian ski team members were among the first recipients, many of whom went on to very successful careers in medicine, dentistry, the law and business. He would be proud that high school students continue to have the opportunity thanks to this Scholarship.”

Nancy Green, Canadian Female Athlete of The Century, Olympic/World Champion (Alpine Skiing), Order of Canada Recipient, retired Senator

“You have to give Ernie Gare credit because he’s the guy who looked ahead for the benefit of these students and thought they could develop their athletic skills as well as their scholastic skills.”

Peter W Webster, former manager of Canadian National Ski Team, Member of Canadian Ski and BC Sports Hall of Fame

"Receiving an Ernie Gare Scholarship was a great honor. I felt that the effort, perseverance, and passion that I put into sports was being acknowledged. The Ernie Gare Society recognizes how much sports can teach you and help you in life's endeavors."

Jasper Ander, 2020 Recipient, University of British Columbia Okanagan Student

"I was able to reach my goals of playing in the CIS division for women’s soccer along with continuing my education with the help of this program. The Ernie Gare program has made it possible for many people to do the same. I am honored to be a recipient of the Ernie Gare Scholarship.“

Abby Jackson, 2020 Recipient, University of Lethbridge Student/Athlete

"Growing up in Nelson I was given the opportunity to participate in numerous Ernie Gare athletic events like the street hockey and soccer tournaments. It meant a lot to have the support from this amazing society back home while I pursued my education as an Instrumentation and Electrical Engineering Technologist while also playing for the men's hockey team at Red Deer College."

Tyler Podgorenco, 2019 Recipient, Red Deer College Student/Athlete

“Honestly, when you're a student with limited income throughout the school year, the Ernie Gare Scholarship makes a substantial impact. It is great to see a local program in Nelson consistently supporting athletes as they pursue their dreams of higher education.“

Adam Wheeldon , Recipient, Concordia College Graduate / Athlete

“Receiving the Scholarship is an honour and to carry on the legacy Ernie Gare had on the town of Nelson. It encouraged me to continue playing the sports I love while alleviating financial pressure associated with post-secondary education.”

Emma Wheeldon, 2018 Recipient, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) Student / Athlete

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