Donations fund building projects, bursaries

University's Office of Advancement reeled in $47 million in alumni donations last year

Donors have to give at least half the cost of a building’s construction to have it named after them.
Donors have to give at least half the cost of a building’s construction to have it named after them.

The Abramsky family’s history of donating to Queen’s spans three generations.

Their most recent donation went towards the acquisition of the new medical building’s administration office at 80 Barrie St. The office was their family home for over 80 years before it was donated.

“Over the years my mother-in-law entertained a lot of Queen’s students, and fed a lot of Queen’s students. We felt that it was an established home for a lot of years and wanted to keep it that way for posterity,” Shirley Abramsky said. “It was our decision to call it the Abramsky House. We wanted it still to be recognizable as such.”

University officials say a donation must cover approximately half the costs of a project in order for the building to be named after the donor.

In the 1950s, Harry Abramsky donated money for the construction of Abramsky Hall on Arch Street.

His son, Mortimer Abramsky, continued the tradition by donating to scholarships and music prizes — earmarking his giving for specific causes.

“We’ve supported Queen’s for a lot of years,” Shirley Abramsky, Mortimer’s wife, said. “We live in the community; Queen’s students are our tenants. You have to give back.” Many of Mrs. Abramsky’s relatives went to Queen’s, including her husband, brother-in-law and son. Her granddaughter is currently enrolled at Queen’s.

Queen’s has raked in over $100 million in donations over the past two years.

The University’s Office of Advancement handles all fundraising efforts, including a telefundraising operation, annual giving programs and alumni outreach. Last year, the University received 15,000 donations totaling $47 million. Of these donations, 166 of them were over $25,000. “Philanthropy is really important to Queen’s, it allows us to do things differently than regular operating budgets,” Vice-Principal of Advancement Tom Harris said.

“Our alumni support a wide variety of initiatives at Queen’s that range from student assistance, scholarships, awards, departmental activities such as field school and conferences and faculty positions.”

Donors can earmark their money to go to specific building projects, faculties or bursaries. They can also make general donations to the annual fund — an unrestricted pool of money that is allocated by deans, the provost and the principal.

From 2009 to 2011, the annual fund received $2.3 million. The fund’s website lists giving priorities as the construction of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts and a 75,000 square-foot expansion of Goodes Hall, as well as financial assistance.

Despite the suspension of the Bachelor of Fine Arts program, there is currently no campaign to raise money for the program, Harris said.

“We will not yet know if this is on our priority list. I would anticipate that the provost is in the process of determining priorities with the deans and we will know in due time,” Harris said.

Donors hoping to attach their name to a building will have to give a substantial amount of money to its construction.

“Construction of Beamish-Munroe Hall cost about $24 million, and the two of them [Robert Beamish, Sci ’60, and Donald Munro Sci ’52] donated about half of that,” Harris said.

Official naming guidelines dictate how much money needs to be donated for the benefactor’s name to be attached.

“We encourage people to donate to the general fund, but the University has a lot of other priorities that they’d be happy for alumni to donate to,” Harris said. “When our benefactors are aligned with specific projects that they’re passionate about, they’re more engaged and more generous.”

Alumni Jack Billingsley, Sci ’48 ½, donates money to Queen’s, but restricts his funds for a mature students bursary he helped establish with students from his graduating class.

Students coming back from war in 1948 started their term at Queen's at the beginning of the summer to avoid a double cohort enrolment that fall. Their graduating year was nicknamed Sci ’48 ½. “I’ve never thought about just giving money to school, I want to stay with the Sci ’48 ½ [bursary] effort,” he said.

Funders have an agreement with the Board of Trustees to ensure the bursary continues as is.

“I make a habit, for personal gratification, to call [bursary recipients] up and ask how things are going,” Billingsley said. Jodi Snowdon, director of annual giving, works with students to solicit donations from benefactors.

“We do annual outreach to alumni, parents, faculty staff and friends of Queen’s, including students, to educate them about the need for philanthropic work at Queen’s,” Snowdon said.

The annual giving office collected $14 million in the last two years.

Money can be donated directly to a faculty. Each faculty has a representative responsible for soliciting donations.

Last year, the faculty of Applied Science and Engineering received the greatest share of donations, with $11.7 million. The faculty of Arts and Science was close behind, receiving $11.4 million. Every year, the Grant Hall Society invites donors who contribute over $1,000 to a black tie gala in Kingston. Donors are separated into the three categories: Limestone, who donate between $1,000 and $4,999; Sapphire, donations of $5,000 to $9,999; and Diamond, donations exceeding $10,000. Lifetime donations exceeding $100,000 are eligible for recognition on the Benefactor’s Wall in Stauffer Library.

Richard McNevin, Artsci ’80 and Law ’83 donated money to Queen’s for the refurbishment of Sir John A. Macdonald Hall.

“Dean [William] Flanagan has been restoring the image of the law school, and this is a vote of confidence in his work … he’s making [the law school] better all-round,” McNevin said.

While he didn’t donate enough to have a hall or lecture theatre named after him, McNevin will be appreciated another way.

“My name will go up on a donor wall somewhere,” he said.

Donations to faculties

Applied Science and Engineering
$11.7 million

Arts and Science
$11.4 million
School of Business
$4.8 million

Health Sciences
$3.9 million


Graduate Studies

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