It takes a village to put a $100 million dollar donation into motion.
Over the past two years more than five offices and departments at Queen’s collaborated in confidence leading up to the Nov. 2 event that announced Stephen Smith’s $100 million donation.
When Vice-Principal (Advancement) Karen Bertrand got a call from Smith Engineering Dean Kevin Deluzio confirming Smith had finalized his gift, she screamed.
“We were super excited,” Bertrand said in an interview with The Journal. “This sounds maybe trite, but it really isn’t about the money. It was always about the vision the dean had for engineering education and the fact that Stephen was prepared to make an investment to help that move forward, we were just over the moon.”
Bertrand was involved with organizing the donation from the very start, beginning in October 2021. Meeting Smith in Toronto was Bertrand’s first time taking public transit since the onset of COVID-19.
Travelling with Deluzio and Principal Patrick Deane, Bertrand heard Deluzio’s vision for engineering education, molding graduates into technically proficient and socially aware engineers.
“It’s really special to me that I get to know [donors] on a human level and get to become close to them and help them fulfill whatever their objectives are through the University,” Bertrand said.
Smith asked about what other schools were doing and it was agreed upon Queen’s was well positioned to take on the world’s challenges. Between the scale of Deluzio’s vision, his role as chair of Engineering Deans Canada, and Queen’s success in advancing business education after Smith’s donation to the Smith School of Business eight years ago, the crew decided to make the vision a reality.
The plan will roll out over the next 10 years. Smith Engineering won’t be spending the $100 million all at once, and $86 million will be endowed to ensure the sustainability of the program.
“The first time [I worked at a fundraising campaign was at] the call centre here at Queen’s. I was asking people for $25, and $50, and $100. Then I was working at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and I was asking people for $1,000 and that was such a big number,” Bertrand said.
Keeping the secret was hard, but Bertrand didn’t want to disclose the donation prematurely.
“I’m not going to lie, we were all bursting at the seams. Those of us that knew—but not even everybody within the Office of Advancement knew,” Bertrand said.
As the announcement drew closer, the circle of people in the know grew larger. Smith School of Business and their Dean Wanda Costen were brought in early, bringing the collaboration full circle. For Deluzio, changing the name of the faculty reflected his appreciation for Smith’s generosity.
The effort included Queen’s University Relations, Advancement, and the Principal’s Office. Bertrand expressed gratitude for everyone involved from the staff updating the websites to placing the plywood box over the new sign in front of Beamish-Munro Hall.
Deluzio and Smith are taking advancement nationally, going on a roadshow beginning in Toronto on Nov. 27. Tagging along is Engineering Society (EngSoc) President Aidan Shimizu who was invited to moderate town halls as part of the tour.
“They will be meeting alumni in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver,” Bertrand said. “They will have an opportunity to have guests from those centres hear from Stephen directly about his motivation for making the gift and from Dean Deluzio about his vision for engineering education.”
It remains to be seen if the vision for Smith Engineering will change Queen’s physical campus. The school is considering every aspect necessary to transform engineering at Queen’s, Deluzio explained in a statement to The Journal.
“This transformative gift allows us to make impactful change at scale that would otherwise not be possible,” Deluzio said. “We truly see this as a game changing announcement that will significantly enhance the standing of Smith Engineering both in Canada and around the world.”
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