Queen's receives massive donation to engineering department

Queen's University has announced a new name for the school's Faculty of Engineering in light of a historic donation to the school.

Queen's Principal Patrick Deane announced on Thursday that the university's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science would be taking the namesake of Stephen J.R Smith after the philanthropist and Queen's grad donated $100 million to the department.

The donation becomes the largest ever given to an engineering faculty in Canada and one of the largest ever to Queen's University.

Smith's most recent donation is double that which he made to the university's School of Business in 2015, a donation which also earned him the namesake of that faculty.

In a release, Principal Deane called the gift transformational for Queen's, and said it will provide a significant boost to the university for years to come.

"Queen's is incredibly grateful for this remarkable gift from such a distinguished alumnus and outstanding Canadian as Stephen Smith," said Principal Deane.

"Stephen's transformational gift will benefit faculty and students for generations to come. 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."

Smith received a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Queen's in 1972 and has since gone on to be the Chairman and CEO of Smith Financial Corporation, holding high ranking positions at First National Financial Corporation, Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company, and other financial services businesses.

Smith said his education at Queen's has helped him the backbone to build the wide range of success he has enjoyed over the years.

"The education I received as a student at Queen's was foundational to the success I've achieved in my professional and personal life," said Mr. Smith.

"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."

Aidan Shimuzu, fifth year student and president of the Engineering Society of Queen’s University, said he thinks the school already tends to produce a "different kind of engineer" who seek to be leaders in their field, and this donation will help them take more steps towards that while at Queen's.

He says this donation will help Queen's to further redefine the role of engineers.

"I think Queen's is already leading the pack in terms of revolutionizing the way we see engineering... it's just a very different engineering program," Shimuzu said.

"I think what Stephen sees in that is a way to kind of expand that and make that be the new definition of an engineer. It's not just someone who sits in the basement but also really someone who goes out there and uses our analytical skills to solve bigger problems and bigger issues."

Kevin Deluzio, Dean of Smith Engineering at Queen's, said this donation will help Queen's to offer its students more real world, tangible experience throughout their education at the university.

He says it will help provide the students with tools they need in the real world and further modernize engineering education.

"We will bring the world to our classroom and our students to the world through amplified experiential learning opportunities," Deluzio said.

"Students will get hands-on experience, internships, industry and community partnerships, enabling them to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world contexts."

Deluzio said the majority of the gift will be "endowed to provide an enduring legacy of talent and resources from around the world for generations to come," and will allow the university to change the way some courses are taught so that students can be better positioned to change the world in which they will work.

He says while there's already examples of those changes in the engineering world and at Queen's itself, they're often only being seen in smaller, niche areas.

A donation like this, Deluzio says, will amplify and accelerate those changes and allow the university to do them at scale.

He says reimagining engineering education will have a great impact across the Queen's community, and the greater Kingston community as a whole.

"I get really excited when I think about the ripple effects that this is going to have in our community," Deluzio said.

"Inherent in this is multidisciplinary thinking, students working across. I definitely see the benefits to Queen's overall because of the nature of those collaborations that are going to be so important and the resources that come from a gift of this magnitude allow us to do that at scale in a way that we've only dreamed of and hoped for."

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News