HALIFAX: StFX has received the largest single donation in the university’s 165-year history.
At the university’s inaugural National Dinner EAST event in Halifax, StFX president Kent MacDonald announced a gift of $10 million from Amelia and Lino Saputo of Montreal. MacDonald said the gift could not have come at a better time.
“It has been 51 years since the Oland Centre and those facilities have played a role in helping to keep our communities healthy and well,” said MacDonald.
After decades of use, MacDonald said the facility is beginning to show its age. The $10 million donation will be used to renovate the Oland Centre, creating the Amelia and Lino Saputo Centre for Healthy Living at StFX.
The Saputos run an international dairy company based in Quebec. Their son Gio is a 4th year business student at StFX, and the family has developed a strong connection to Antigonish.
“They see the university as a broader extension of their family in that their son has had just a tremendous experience as they’ve described it,” said MacDonald. “The timing of this gift prior to their son departing and graduating this year is really beautiful as well.”
StFX is currently in the midst of a $30 million revitalization project to improve the athletic and wellness facilities on campus. MacDonald said that about $28.5 million will come from private donations. Last fall, the university opened the newly renovated Coach K basketball court, and is currently replacing the facility’s outdoor bleachers in preparation to host the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games.
MacDonald said the support from the Saputos will be essential to forging ahead with the project.
“We weren’t expecting such generosity, so we’re quite overwhelmed. It will allow us to move forward with our multi-staged plan to completely renovate that facility,” said MacDonald.
The next steps will include improvements to the locker facilities ahead of this year’s summer games. The campus is also working on upgrades to its athletic training therapy clinic. MacDonald said a dedicated medical clinic is in the works for both students and the wider community, and he expects it to be completed by the end of the summer.
StFX students have also been taking an active role. In January, the students voted to contribute $5 million over the next ten years to support the project.
“It will allow us immediately next year to begin to enhance and grow the amount of physical fitness area including elliptical trainers, treadmills and weights, and also some renovation for students who want to meditate or do yoga,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald said the improvements on campus will be enjoyed not only by students, but by the entire region.
“Our fitness facilities are the ones that are most used by the community, more than any other building,” he said. “We feel that StFX does exist for a broader public good and we think this investment that we’re making… is an investment in the community and not just an investment in StFX.”
Over 400 people were in attendance at last Friday’s announcement. MacDonald said the evening was an appropriate way to honour the generosity of the Saputos.
“On behalf of the broader StFX community, we’re just so grateful for the vision and generosity of Amelia and Lino Saputo. They have huge demands on them and we’re deeply grateful for the fact that this wonderful family from Montreal have decided that they want to help create a legacy in this small rural part of our province,” said MacDonald.