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$100 million new donation from Stephen Smith follows his earlier $50 million gift to University
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$100 million new donation from Stephen Smith follows his earlier $50 million gift to University

The engineering faculty at Queen’s University has a new name, following a $100 million donation from a former student.

It will now be known as the Stephen J.R. Smith Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, or Smith Engineering for short.

The university announced the donation on Thursday, describing it as the largest gift made to an engineering faculty in Canada and one of the largest ever to Queen’s.

“The majority of the $100-million gift will be endowed to provide an enduring legacy of talent and resources from around the world for generations to come,” read a statement from Kevin Deluzio, the program’s dean.

“The balance will enable the development and implementation of new programs, and investments in research, technology and equipment.”

Smith graduated from Queen’s with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1972 before becoming a successful financial entrepreneur.

The nine-figure contribution isn’t his first “transformational gift”.

In 2015, he donated $50 million to the business school at Queen’s, which was also named in his honor.

A profile on the Smith School of Business website says he’s “renowned for innovation” in information technology and financial structuring in Canada’s mortgage industry.

“The education I received as a student at Queen’s was foundational to the success I’ve achieved in my professional and personal life,” he said in a media release shared by the university.

“I have long admired Queen’s commitment to STEM education and research and am proud to be able to contribute as it transforms engineering education to prepare graduates to address the greatest challenges facing our people and our planet.”

Jean-Marc Mangin, CEO of Philanthropic Foundations Canada, said donations of this size are rare, but there’s a growing trend of increasingly large amounts being granted to universities in recent years.

“Public funding unfortunately, is on its way down. Research funding is flat,” he explained. “Universities have to look elsewhere to be able to offer the kind of program that they want.”

Mangin said there is a debate within philanthropic circles about the need to encourage people to give, while not paying into areas that should be covered by the government.

Donations can support research and innovation, he said, while the state should provide sufficient base funding.

Education remains a popular subject of philanthropy, Mangin added, accounting for roughly one dollar out of every three that’s donated in Canada.

“It’s not simply about putting a name on a building, but what’s happening inside the building and trying to effect change,” he said.

Patrick Deane, Queen’s principal, said the university is “incredibly grateful” for the donation, adding it will benefit faculty and students for generations.

“The significance of this investment, and the renaming of the faculty, signal the beginning of a new era—one that builds on a foundation of 130 years of excellence,” he said.

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