The Impact of Giving

Alumni Profile

Paying it Forward

Vafa & Varqa Mirzaagha, BCom’06
Founders: the Mirzaagha Family Exchange Bursary

Thirteen years after they graduated from Commerce, twins Vafa and Varqa Mirzaagha still talk about the tremendous impact of Smith School of Business. The school, their professors, classmates and Kingston itself all had an enormously positive effect on them.

Varqa amd Vafa Mirzaagha

Varqa (left) and Vafa Mirzaagha.

One thing they especially appreciated was the D&R Sobey Atlantic Scholarship. The brothers were recipients of the award, which was founded by Donald Sobey, BCom’57, LLD’16, and Robert Sobey, BAH’88, in 1999 for students from Atlantic Canada. “It was always in the back of our minds, how grateful we were for this opportunity,” says Vafa. “We thought that if we were ever in a position to do something substantial and give back, we would.”

Vafa and Varqa grew up in Halifax. After Commerce, they headed to Toronto for jobs in investment banking. In 2012, they came home to work in their father’s company, AutoChoice, a successful Atlantic chain selling automotive aftermarket parts and paint. They helped grow the business to the point that, last year, they were able to sell it.

It was then that Vafa and Varqa decided to create a bursary at Smith. The Mirzaagha Family Exchange Bursary is awarded on the basis of financial need to Commerce students going on exchange. “Exchange was such a profound experience for us,” explains Vafa, “that when we reflected back on how we can best make an impact, we decided that we wanted to help as many students as possible to go abroad, too.”

“Do something, whatever you can do, however small. Don’t underestimate its impact.”

The bursary is already having an impact. Constantina Venetis, Comm’20, a recipient, went on exchange this fall to Maastricht University in the Netherlands. “I would like to thank Vafa and Varqa Mirzaagha for their generosity,” she says. “If it wasn’t for these bursaries, students like myself would not be able to take advantage of the many opportunities provided to students at Smith."

With the creation of this bursary, Vafa and Varqa’s experience at Smith has come full circle. As Varqa says: “We were massively inspired by the generosity of the Sobey family. It’s something Don and Rob spoke about at events when we were students: Do something, whatever you can do, however small. Don’t underestimate its impact.”