Honoring her mother, creating a legacy

Margaret Yang and classmates.

Scholarship allows donor to make family proud.

Helping students make a difference in the world

As an immigrant and a first-generation college student, Margaret F. Yang, BS ’75, never took her education for granted. Growing up in China and Hong Kong, Yang moved to the United States at 20 to attend the University at Buffalo’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Yang’s mother, Phoenix Yu, stressed to her daughter that education was the pathway to a better life, despite never attending college herself. 

After graduation, Yang went on to have a successful career in retail pharmacy, one that allowed her to repay her mother’s sacrifice in the ultimate way: by creating a scholarship in her name. Established in 2016, the Phoenix Yu Scholarship provides financial support to students matriculated in the pharmacy school. No stranger to humble beginnings, Yang understood firsthand the financial struggles that accompany the pursuit of an education, and wanted to help more students realize their dreams and achieve more with a career in pharmacy. 

Yang died in 2018, but before her death she designated UB as a beneficiary of her pension and investment accounts. In doing so, she was able to create a lasting family legacy in her mother’s name that maximized her impact and provided the most benefit to her scholarship recipients, according to Wendy Irving, associate vice president for planned giving. 

“Typically, when you withdraw these funds, even if they are passed down to your children, they’re taxed at the highest level,” she says. “But, as a tax-exempt organization, the University can ensure the entirety of the gift is used in a way that is most meaningful to the donor.” 

Today, Yang’s generosity and her mother’s legacy live on in their scholars. Students like second-year pharmacy student Malalay Haider, the daughter of immigrants whose parents fled war-torn Afghanistan in search of safety, but at the cost of pursuing their own education.

“Because of their experience, my parents’ focus has always been ensuring education was a priority in my life,” she says. “This scholarship allows me to do just that, making my family proud while serving as an example for all the other children who come from similar backgrounds.”

--Meghan Goff, April 2021

Published May 4, 2021