Pioneering the path to success

Helping students along the pathway to higher education is important role for Tom Pallan. - Photo submitted
Helping students along the pathway to higher education is important role for Tom Pallan.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Tom Pallan’s family has celebrated a lot of firsts, including being one of the original Indo-Canadian families to settle in Canada.

“We’ve been here since 1906,” explains Pallan, founder of the highly successful Pallan Group.

In addition, Pallan was the first person of Indo-Canadian heritage to graduate from the forestry program at UBC. Today, at age 80, he shows the same pioneering spirit. Pallan recently became part the first cohort of alumni volunteers to read and rank the new Broad Based Admissions (BBA) application forms submitted by prospective UBC Forestry students.

“Part of the reason forestry students are required to submit an essay with their application is because UBC wants to attract well-rounded people who will be helpful to society,” Pallan reveals.

“You can tell a lot about an applicant by the way they express themselves, their interests, and commitments,” he continues. “For example, if they embark on something—do they stay with it? People from all over the world apply to UBC. Sometimes the writers are not proficient in English. You have to look past the words and try to understand what the writer is saying. You have to be so careful not to hurt someone’s chances.”

Helping students along the pathway to higher education is very special to Pallan.

“Canada was a different place back when I was young,” he explains.

As part of a minority group, Pallan and his family endured a lot of adversity and hardship, but they were determined to rise above it.

“Our philosophy was to work hard and raise ourselves—that’s why we all went to school.”

Pallan’s father worked as a laborer before he started a small business selling firewood.

“He put five of us through university,” says Pallan proudly.

Pallan’s four brothers also graduated from UBC – two foresters, one electrical engineer and one teacher.

In 1958, Pallan donned cap and gown and graduated from UBC with a double major in forestry and engineering. He also earned his Master’s Degree in forestry before starting Pallan Timber Products Ltd. with his father in 1959.

Today, Pallan Group includes three divisions: forestry, custom lumber cutting, and real estate—respectively Pallan Timber, Howe Sound Forest Products, and Pallan Holdings. With his sons at the helm, Tom is enjoying life as the partially retired CEO.

“My forestry education has served me and my family very well,” says Pallan. “I have had a very busy and productive working career that was made possible by the education I received at UBC. Now, it’s time for me to start giving back to my alma mater.”

Besides volunteering as a BBA reader, for the past two years Pallan has participated in the spring and fall convocation for forestry graduates, presenting the gifts the University gives to each forestry graduate.

“All alumni should ask themselves the following: what small gesture can I make that, in some way, will help a deserving student obtain a university education?” states Pallan. “Any university graduate, young or old, if you have time and are concerned about education and youth, should consider becoming a BBA reader.”

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