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$10 million donation to college from Gord and Diane Peters
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$10 million donation to college from Gord and Diane Peters

A southwestern Manitoba post-secondary college has received the largest donation in its history, and money its president says will be transformative for its campus and students.

Manitobans Gord and Diane Peters donated $10 million to Brandon’s Assiniboine Community College during the unveiling of the newly christened Peters School of Business. It’s the largest donation from an individual, family or business the college has ever received.

ACC president Mark Frison says financial assistance is one of the immediate ways funding will help students. He estimates more than $2 million in funding over 10 years will help students through scholarships, bursaries and other programs.

ACC saw more than 3,700 full-time and 6,000 part-time students in 2022.

“It will help with financial assistance. It’ll help move new programs forward. It’ll help with our engagement with the industry on graduate placements,” Frison told CBC. “It’ll help start to plot for the planning for the next building on our North Hill campus to house the school of business.”

The donation will be put to work immediately on campus, Frison says. Students coming through school as soon as September will see the impacts with scholarships and bursaries.

During the presentation Renée Cable, minister of advanced education and training, said the donation is a great investment in students and the community’s future.

“It’s a jaw-dropping and it will absolutely make a huge difference in the lives of of families,” she said.

The Peters are life-long residents of Manitoba’s Westman region. Gord co-founded Cando Rail & Terminals in 1978 in Brandon. The business now spans North America and employs more than 1,000 people.

The Peters have been in step with the college as it has grown, contributing to projects including the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts and Prairie Innovation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

ACC says the Peters have been generous contributors to the college for many years through Cando, the local area foundation, and the donations of personal funds.

The world’s changing and this includes the needs of the students, Gord Peters told CBC.

“You very seldom walk out of high school going in a job now without some more education,” he said. “We were talking the other day about agriculture. Today it’s big business. You’ve got to be trained in business or you’re in trouble right off the hop.”

“That’s what entrepreneurship does,” he said. “If you’re on to a project that we think is good, we got to give it all our effort.”

He’s confident in the investment in ACC and curious to see what the leverage effect will be for individuals, governments and agencies that can also financially support the college.

Diane Peters says she hopes the donation inspires others to support the college because it’s a head-start for the institution that makes seemingly insurmountable projects become attainable.

“We can contribute to get us to the finish line,” she told CBC. “I think this is going to help and I think it’s going to really get people.”

Frison described the couple as iconic for the impact they have had in the Westman area. Gord Peters has received several awards, including Manitoba Entrepreneur of the Year, Brandon Business Person of the Year, and is in the Manitoba Business Hall of Fame.

The family also has close ties with the college.

Diane Peters graduated from ACC’s nursing program,  the largest single program at the college.

“She knows firsthand what it means to be an ACC student. And when you look together at what they’ve done philanthropically, you know there isn’t a project that moves forward in Westman that they’re not involved in,” Frison said. “To have them come on in such a big way for this particular cause means so much.”

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