Name institute after my nanny

July 28, 2006

A Canadian businessman who made a large donation to a university has decided to buck the trend of having a building named after him. Instead, he has asked for it to be named after his childhood nanny.

The new home of the Coady International Institute at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia will be named the Marjorie Desmond Learning Pavilion, after the woman who helped raise John Chisholm and his siblings.

Mr Chisholm, 60, who runs a construction company, donated C$1 million (Pounds 489,000) towards the building. Ms Desmond, who died in 1991, had a 30-year relationship with the extended Chisholm family.

Buildings, business schools and endowed chairs at universities worldwide bear the names of key benefactors. Mr Chisholm said he was "not the type"

to put his name in big steel letters on a university building facade. His 42-year-old company, Nova Construction, does not even carry a sign.

He has fond memories of Ms Desmond. She began working for the family of six children at the age of 15, when Mr Chisholm was 12. When the siblings grew up and began having children of their own, Ms Desmond, who never had children, began caring for the extended family.

"In an era of vanity charity, this is a refreshing and inspiring gesture,"

said Mary Coyle, vice-president of St Francis Xavier. She said that Mr Chisholm's modesty and generosity - this was the largest gift the institute has received and the third largest for the university - led others to think of making similar unnamed donations.

When asked what Ms Desmond would have thought of the gesture, Mr Chisholm said his former nanny disliked being under the spotlight and he added:

"She'd probably give me heck."

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