In January 2021, when we started planning UArctic's 20-year anniversary, we received word from Stephen Heal that his father Bill had passed away. It is no exaggeration to say that UArctic would not exist without Bill Heal. Certainly, nobody could have imagined in 1997 when Bill first proposed the idea of "a university of the Arctic" that by 2021 UArctic would have grown into such a powerful organization with well over 200 members in twenty countries and activities in about 60 Thematic Networks.

Recognizing the impact and role of his father and other individuals in bringing the concept into reality twenty years ago, Stephen Heal suggested that now would be a good occasion to reach out to the other founders of UArctic and create a founders’ fund that could provide continuity to our work in the years to come. After all, UArctic is not only Bill’s legacy; many people contributed to the early development of the network, already then reaching across borders and sharing resources.

The founders’ endowment fund – the Heal Fund – will initially focus on supporting the careers of students and early-career researchers, providing the means to bring them together and foster collaboration across borders. Preserved as an endowment, the Heal Fund will give UArctic the flexibility and long-term capacity to support programs at the discretion of the President and Board.

Speaking on behalf of the founders of UArctic, Stephen Heal announced the Heal Fund in the UArctic 20-year anniversary seminar in Rovaniemi, Finland on Monday, September 6. Thanks to the seed donation from Bill’s family and generous contributions from several other founders, we successfully reached our initial goal and raised nearly 50,000 euros which will form the base for the fund.

"We hope the Heal Fund will grow as the University of the Arctic has grown. And we'll invite others to contribute too, because we know the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. The true legacy of the actions of the founders some twenty years ago will be the actions of the students, members and friends of UArctic in the years to come," Stephen Heal concluded.

We are grateful to all the founders who have so far contributed towards the Heal Fund! If you would like to join them and contribute to building an endowment for UArctic, or you simply want to know more, please do not hesitate to contact UArctic's fundraising team at

You can watch the full speech by Stephen Heal below:

UArctic 20 years Anniversary Seminar: Stephen Heal's speech from UArctic on Vimeo.