Thinking big

A light show on the stone columns of Tabaret Hall.

uOttawa’s most ambitious fundraising campaign ever seeks $400 million to support research, revitalize the campus and empower today’s students to change the world through “scholarship with a social purpose.”

By Mike Foster

Heal the brain, build a stronger Canada, develop green energy to save the planet, harness the power of light through ground-breaking photonics research — clearly, the University of Ottawa sets no limits on the ambitions of its students, professors and researchers.

On May 9th, to push them even further on their journey, uOttawa launched its most ambitious fundraising campaign ever. The goal: Raise $400 million to empower them to change our lives and change the world.

As uOttawa celebrates its 50th anniversary as a publicly-funded teaching institution, it is setting out its bold plans and aspirations for a bright future. Defy the Conventional: The Campaign for uOttawa aims to propel the largest bilingual (French-English) university in the world to greatness, transforming it into a global research powerhouse and harnessing the potential of future generations. Notably, this campaign is being launched on the heels of the University’s most successful fundraising year in its history: $36 million over the last 12 months.

Speaking to a sell-out crowd at the glamorous Defy the Conventional Gala in front of Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa president Allan Rock said the bold plans would start a “new chapter” and “set the stage for the next 50 years.”

“This campaign is about more than money. It’s about the impact uOttawa will have on Canada and the world,” Rock said. “It’s about using our tremendous strengths in public policy, medicine and research to improve health care and build a better life for all Canadians. Our mission isn’t just to teach and support extraordinary research — we want to inspire people to serve society, their country and the world.”

According to Louis de Melo, vice-president, external relations, the philanthropy of alumni and friends will play a major role in achieving the campaign’s goal.

“We are calling on our 196,000-strong community of alumni to take even greater pride in their alma mater. By reconnecting and giving back, you will change lives. Let’s all invest in the value of what it means to have a uOttawa diploma hanging on your wall.”

The University’s student population has doubled over the past 12 years, to 43,000. So much has changed since uOttawa began as a small college in 1848, including a focus on research that began in 1965 when uOttawa became publicly-funded, which has led to uOttawa now being one of only six Canadian universities among the top 2% of universities worldwide. But it is time to take a fearless approach and rise to today’s challenges, says de Melo.

As public funding becomes more restricted and universities across the world compete for the brightest and best students, faculty and researchers, uOttawa has a clear vision for the $400 million. Funding will be allocated to four main areas of action: $100 million to craft a stronger Canada by contributing to the public debate and educating tomorrow’s leaders; $100 million to make a better life for all Canadians by researching new treatments for brain diseases; $100 million to harness the potential of the next generation; and $100 million to transform the uOttawa campus.

Top initiatives include the following:

  • The uOttawa Brain and Mind Research Institute, where more than 150 clinicians and researchers are focused on harnessing the brain’s self-healing powers to prevent or repair damage caused by stroke and other debilitating diseases, as well as the Advanced Research Complex, which is home to pioneering research in photonics and earth science.
  • A new school of government, which will sponsor the Crossroads Initiative, which will involve high-profile interdisciplinary teams offering a wide spectrum of timely, insightful and non-partisan advice on the most pressing challenges of our time.
  • Unlocking student potential and enriching the student experience, with increased support for scholarships and bursaries in line with uOttawa’s belief that higher education should be “the great equalizer.” A focus on experiential learning is reflected in programs such as the inter-faculty Entrepreneurship Hub (E-Hub), the Centre for Global and Community Engagement and a Leaders of Tomorrow Fund.
  • Revitalizing the uOttawa campus with a new six-storey Learning Centre by 2017; converting the central campus parking lot into University Place, a grassy quadrangle for social gatherings; a new Black Box Theatre and four rehearsal spaces; a new home for the Faculty of Health Sciences, a new Fitness and Active Living Centre, interactive classrooms and bike paths.

To spearhead the drive, the University has assembled a Campaign Cabinet of prestigious volunteers, led by Chair Perry Dellelce (LLB ’90), founder of the law firm Wildeboer Dellelce.

“Postsecondary education is where you teach people how to fix the problems of the world. By supporting education, you are helping to address the root causes of social injustice, disease and homelessness. Once educated and properly equipped, our students can go forward and solve these fundamental challenges of our society,” said Dellelce.

Past donor support has helped students like Brock Doiron, who studies the interaction of light and matter and hopes to eventually work on solar power cells, and Emily Pachereva, who volunteers for the Peer Help Centre crisis intervention helpline and uOttawa Best Buddies, which helps people with developmental disabilities.

Other members of the Campaign Cabinet executive include Jeopardy!game show host Alex Trebek, the honorary chair. Trebek has donated $2.4 million to help build the Alex Trebek Alumni Hall and sponsor a lecture series. Other executive members include Sheila Block (LLB ’72), partner, Torys LLP, and Daniel Lamarre (BA ’76), president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil. Other cabinet members include Tan Sri Dato Dr Ir Gan Thian Leong (BASc ’84), founder of Brunsfield International Group, Jay Hennick (LLB ’81), FirstService Corporation CEO, and Calin Rovinescu (LLB ’80), Air Canada CEO.

Alumni sit at a table eating and talking as other guests network and mingle under beams of colourful light

Alumni sit at a table eating and talking as other guests network and mingle under beams of colourful light at the Defy the Conventional Gala. Photo: Robert Lacombe.

The University wants to improve on its standing as one of the top ten research universities in Canada and move to the top five.

“If the University of Ottawa hasn’t changed your life already, it will,” said Rock, “because it is from our unique vantage point that we can see a way to a better Canada. We are a crossroads of languages and perspectives and we have a history of coming at things from a different angle. In addition to great teaching and outstanding research, uOttawa has put service — to society, to the country and to the world — at the heart of its mission.”

“We are committed to scholarship with a social purpose, to improving the lives of Canadians. We defy the conventional with our big plans and big dreams,” he added.

With the generosity and leadership of our alumni, friends, partners, employees, professors and retirees, the Campaign for the University of Ottawa will enable uOttawa faculty, students and staff to defy the conventional and find game-changing solutions to the challenges facing Canada and the world.

Get inspired by reading stories about how your donation makes a difference. As well, learn more about Defy the Conventional: The Campaign for uOttawa.

Campaign kick-off boosted by big donors

One of the major donors this year is alumnus Camille Villeneuve(BCom ʼ67), president of Multivesco, who donated $1.5 million to the Telfer School of Management, with $350,000 allocated to the Camille Villeneuve Fund for Entrepreneurship and $150,000 for the existing Camille Villeneuve Student Activity Fund. The remaining $1 million goes to future Telfer priorities.

“I can say without hesitation that the University of Ottawa gave me the theoretical knowledge needed to succeed … it also enabled me to build a network of contacts that was decisive throughout my more than 40-year career… It seemed completely natural for me to reaffirm my sense of belonging to the University of Ottawa as a donor, in support of its pursuit of excellence,” said Villeneuve.

Another major donation came from the estate of the late Audrey Jacqueline Boyce, a career federal civil servant in the departments of Agriculture and Justice, who bequeathed more than $1 million to provide financial support to students of the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section. The gift allowed the University to establish two annual bursaries for common law students in financial need — one undergrad and one graduate student — and one MD/PhD fellowship for medical research.

Main photo:
The stone façade of Tabaret Hall was the backdrop for a light show at the Defy the conventional gala event on May 9. Photo: Robert Lacombe.


There were dignitaries dancing and inspiring speeches as uOttawa launched Defy the Conventional: The Campaign for uOttawa at a gala event during Alumni Week. Photo: Robert Lacombe.

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