Retired architect Andrew Beckerman is known for his philanthropy. He’s not an RRU grad, but now Royal Roads students will benefit from his gift to the 2022 alumni appeal, Together Extraordinary.

Andrew Beckerman has lived a life filled with good fortune that he has turned into good works.

He earned a Master of Architecture thanks to a California government program that kept tuition low. He was able to buy his first home in that state in 1972 while he was still a student working part-time as a dishwasher. He purchased Apple stock when it was $30 a share in 1989, just a few weeks after buying his first Apple computer.

Beckerman’s greatest stroke of good fortune, though, was not only life-changing, it was lifesaving.

He’d been infected with HIV and his health declined precipitously starting in 1993. Two years later, on death’s door — “I was literally a week away from dying,” he says — he was one of just 1,400 people in the U.S. accepted into a clinical trial for an experimental HIV drug. It worked.

“There’s nothing quite as good an antidepressant as that,” says Beckerman. “I never wake up on the wrong side of the bed because I should be dead and I’m alive…It really changes one’s outlook.”

A Victoria, B.C. resident since 2005 and a Canadian citizen for seven years, Beckerman has been paying forward his good fortune in his adopted hometown. His philanthropical endeavours are many, and his latest is a series of matching donations to Royal Roads University for Entrance Awards and the “Life Happens” fund as part of its 2022 Alumni Appeal – Together, Extraordinary. To begin his relationship with RRU, he will match the next $2,500 worth of gifts received after this story is published. (Yes, I’ll Give a Gift!)

It’s not his biggest donation — he has matched gifts to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund; given more than half a million dollars to the Victoria Cool Aid Society, which works to end homelessness by providing affordable housing, shelter spaces and health services; and in 2017 pledged his $750,000 art collection to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria — but it is particularly meaningful for Beckerman.

A native of New York who later lived in northern Vermont, California and New Mexico, he says he benefited from the government initiative that allowed him to attend the University of California, Berkeley for tuition of $800 per year. The program was initiated by then-governor Pat Brown to allow students to graduate without the burden of student loan debt.

“This is part of why I am supporting student awards at Royal Roads as well as SFU, UVic and Camosun College,” he says. “I’m constantly expanding it so I can help a handful of students graduate without student debt so they can go off and do great things just like I did.”

For his many donations and his longtime volunteer efforts with AIDS Vancouver Island, Beckerman has received his share of recognition. Several years ago, he won the Generosity of Spirit Award at the local National Philanthropy Day event and, last year, he received the 2021 City of Victoria Citizenship Award and the British Columbia Medal of Good Citizenship.

But it all comes down to his aim to walk the walk of his overarching philosophy: “I live better if everyone lives better.”