Headshot of Hema Dias Abeygunawardena

Hema Abeygunawardena passed away in July 2004

Her obituary can be found Here.


Hema was a teacher and an educator in her home country of Sri Lanka before coming to CIE. She earned an M.Ed. from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1980 which focused on the participation of girls and women in formal and nonformal education programs in the Nuwara Eliya region of Sri Lanka.


She came to CIE on a Fulbright Scholarship where she continued her interest in both nonformal education and qualitative research.  After finishing her degree at CIE, she went to Canada where she then earned an M.A. in 1994 and a Ph.D. in 2003 from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Her research in Toronto focused on the use of computers by graduate students and their use in asynchronous computer-mediated groups.


After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Hema worked for many years as a tireless advocate on behalf of breast cancer patients. She was a founding member of Willow Breast Cancer Services for women in Toronto and worked closely with the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative. Her work focused on providing support and raising awareness about the psychological impact of breast cancer, particularly for immigrant communities in Canada.


For her efforts, she was awarded the Young Women's Christian Association’s Women of Distinction Award for Volunteerism in 1998.


In 2000, she published a personal narrative about her long battle with breast cancer, entitled "Tears Set in Gold: An Immigrant Woman's Experience with Breast Cancer." The book discusses the psychological aspects of her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. [8-04]


Entrance Year: 
Graduation Year: 
5-year span: 
CIE Graduate