Toronto receives largest philanthropic gift in Canadian history

University president says C$250 million donation is ‘a tremendous shot in the arm’ and shows that donors are still willing to give during the pandemic

September 24, 2020
University of Toronto
Source: Jonathan Qu and Kevin Li

The University of Toronto has received a C$250 million (£145 million) donation to support its Faculty of Medicine – the largest philanthropic gift ever in Canada.

The funding from the Temerty Foundation will support research, collaboration, innovation, widening participation and student well-being across the faculty and its affiliated hospital network.

The donation will be used over a seven-year period and pay for a new building for education and research, fund a new Centre for AI Research and Education in Medicine, and establish an Elder-in-residence and a Circle of Elders to ensure Indigenous health education and leadership is supported. The faculty will be renamed the Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

It will also increase Toronto’s investment in recruitment and outreach programmes, scholarships and bursaries to improve the diversity of the faculty’s student body, with a focus on black, Indigenous and poor communities.

The gift includes a C$10 million allocation to the medicine dean’s Covid-19 Priority Fund, which supports front-line clinical academics and trainees as well as other researchers at the university and partner hospitals seeking to improve testing, accelerate vaccine research and create better treatments and prevention strategies.

The donation is the largest philanthropic gift to any Canadian institution in history. The previous largest was a C$200 million gift from the McCall MacBain Foundation to McGill University last year.

Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto, said that discussions regarding the donation began well before the pandemic hit.

“It is a recognition of the existing excellence of what will now be known as the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and [offers] a chance to take it to an even higher level through these strategic new investments,” he said.

US universities have long attracted very high levels of funding through philanthropy, but fundraising has historically been a more marginal part of Canadian universities’ funding.

Professor Gertler said Toronto’s new donation was further evidence that “nine-figure gifts are beginning to emerge to support high-priority initiatives” at Canadian universities and that these could continue during the Covid-19 crisis.

“There was concern in some quarters that the economic uncertainty triggered by the pandemic might cause donors to hit the pause button, so the fact that the Temerty family is stepping forward at this time with a gift of this magnitude is a tremendous shot in the arm. It really is great news for universities and great news for fundraising in general,” he said.

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