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John Allegro

Giving back to give others a step forward

UM alum John Allegro’s planned gift is helping mature students achieve their dreams

June 11, 2024 — 

When he was young, John Allegro’s [BA/74, BCOMM/86(Concordia)] first thought was not to attend university.

“When I think back to being 17, I was out of the house, not knowing what to do or where to stay but knowing I needed to get a job,” he said. “I picked up jobs here and there as I travelled around. One of my more unique jobs was on Vancouver Island as a tree planter. We lived on a boat where the captain was a retired RCMP officer, and his wife was in charge of the kitchen. When we finished planting in one area, the boat took us to the next because there was no road access.”

He travelled throughout the United States, meeting all kinds of people and having many adventurous experiences. By the time he was 21 years old, he knew he couldn’t do it forever. He joked his body was telling him he was getting tired. He decided to apply to the University of Manitoba because he understood that he could apply as a mature student.

“I got accepted, and I worked really hard. I didn’t have the schooling background, so the first year was a bit of a struggle. But I soon got to be more familiar with things and I basically didn’t do anything else. I just studied, went to school, and studied,” he said. “Out of all the universities I attended throughout the years, UM was the best. I got to meet the professors and if I needed help, they were available and approachable.”

After completing his Bachelor of Arts, he received a bursary to study at McGill for the summer at a postgraduate level and then moved to Montreal and studied for another two years at a postgraduate level in his major of French literature. Then he realized literature was not his true calling.

Allegro’s next step took him to a job at Dun & Bradstreet where he was trained to become a business analyst. There, he learned how to analyze financial numbers but did not understand how they got onto financial statements. He went back to college in Montreal and took courses in math, accounting, and computer science, and in 1980, he was accepted as a student at Concordia University in the Faculty of Commerce. 

“Studying commerce got me thinking about business, and I set up a file called ‘Ideas’. Every time I had an idea for a business, I would write it out and put it in this file,” he said. “At that time, I was married to a medical student, and I became aware that paper billings for doctors were going to transition to electronic billings. When we moved back to Winnipeg in 1986 and I was not able to find a job right away, I started an electronic billing service for physicians whereby I would submit their paper claims electronically. Thus physicians were able to benefit from electronic billings without having to computerize their office.”

In 1991, Allegro furthered this business by developing his own billing program. In 2005, he financed the development of this program as a web application, and in 2018, he sold it to Manitoba Blue Cross – all while working as a tax auditor with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Allegro says when he looks back on his life, he’s proud of the accomplishments he’s made and acknowledges that he owes a lot to UM, and that is why he decided to make a planned gift to the university.

“Sure, it took a lot of hard work, and it took a lot of risk-taking, but UM gave me the opportunity to start this journey by registering as a mature student,” Allegro said. “Because of that, I was able to further my studies, opening all kinds of avenues I never would have known existed if not for that first step. And I thought I wanted to help others in the same situation.”

Each year, beginning in 2016-17, the available annual income from Allegro’s fund has been used to offer one bursary to an entering undergraduate admitted to UM as a mature student and enrolled full-time in any faculty, school or college. The student must demonstrate financial need and must achieve a minimum grade point average of 2.5 annually. As the fund grew, the available annual income also increased. Today, the fund offers two bursaries per year to two students.

“There are all kinds of reasons why people don’t go to university right out of high school, and it may not be their fault that they find themselves in that situation,” he said. “The university helped me, and I’m working on the same principle of giving back because I know firsthand that people need this support. Maybe down the road these students will remember that somebody helped them finance their education and they’ll want to do the same for the next generation.”

You—our generous UM community—keep showing us how inspiration changes everything.

Whether you are supporting health as a human right, advancing reconciliation and promoting Indigenous achievement, climate change research, or transforming the learning experience, you are making the world a better place.

Read more in our Gratitude Report

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