StFX University President Andy Hakin says the university is tremendously grateful for Victor Dahdaleh’s vision and generosity of a $15M donation that will make the Institute for Innovation in Health a reality at StFX.

ANTIGONISH: The president of StFX University says receiving the largest private donation in the school’s history during a special Blue and White gala in Halifax was a very special day, not only for him, but for the entire Xaverian community.

“We are tremendously grateful for (Victor) Dahdaleh’s vision and generosity. His donation will make the Institute for Innovation in Health a reality at StFX for the benefit of the province and beyond,” Andy Hakin told The Reporter. “With this, StFX will further advance its work in contributing to improving the health and health outcomes of our communities, especially in rural areas.”

Philanthropist and supporter of StFX, Victor Phillip Dahdaleh, through the Victor Dahdaleh Foundation, is contributing $15 million dollars to support the creation of the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Hall which will house the Victor and Mona Dahdaleh Institute for Innovation in Health at StFX.

“This new institute at StFX will be led by world class researchers who conduct critical work in promoting healthy populations. I’m excited that this work will have a broad impact on health in rural areas of Nova Scotia, Canada, and beyond,” Dahdaleh said in a release. “This is very important work and I’m delighted to play a lead role. I am a devoted supporter of health research on both sides of the Atlantic, and I am honoured to support this institute at StFX.”

Recently, the Province of Nova Scotia announced funding support of $37.4 million for the new Institute for Innovation in Health, while the federal government contributed to the project in 2017, providing $8 million for the Xaverian Commons project in which the institute is a key component.

The Xaverian Commons project, the university’s president indicated, consisted of a combination of the renovation of Nicholson Tower, the construction of Mulroney Hall and always a building that had something to do with health innovation.

“The construction is going to take a sum of $63.1 million and that’s pure construction as we go forward,” Hakin said. “The Dahdaleh Foundation donation will be targeted towards construction purposes.”

While he couldn’t speak on when construction would begin, other than as soon as possible, as they’re currently in the design stage now, Hakin indicated the process of looking for construction companies is underway, but he indicated what he’s looking for is construction to be completed by the fall of 2025, for an anticipated opening in the spring of 2026.

The Victor and Mona Dahdaleh Institute for Innovation in Health will be recognized for impacting health education, promotion, and prevention programs responsive to rural health care and service needs in Nova Scotian communities.

The new institute will be the headquarters of the National Collaborating Centre for the Determinants for Health, one-of-six national centres of excellence funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada focused on the translation of knowledge to act on the social determinants of health.

“We currently have 75 faculty members who are engaged in health-related research, it will be the place where the next generation of health care workers will have the skills given to them to move effectively into the workforce,” Hakin said. “And it will be a place where faculty, students and health care providers can come together to understand the latest problems that fields are facing and how we can best address them through research and education.”

When asked if the Institute for Innovation in Health would still be able to move forward without Dahdaleh’s contribution, he suggested the funds are for the physical building itself, so without them, the university wouldn’t be able to commence the project in a timely manner.

The gala in which the historic funding was announced, A Night for the Blue and White, highlighted StFX’s engagement in the health care sector over the last 125 years.

“From the early work of the Martha’s setting up the hospitals, to the work of Jimmy Thompkins and Moses Coady and setting up ways, in which the people of Nova Scotia become themselves,” Hakin said. “All the way through to current research that is being done by faculty members in various aspects of the health sector.”

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Drake Lowthers has been a community journalist for The Reporter since July, 2018. His coverage of the suspicious death of Cassidy Bernard garnered him a 2018 Atlantic Journalism Award and a 2019 Better Newspaper Competition Award; while his extensive coverage of the Lionel Desmond Fatality Inquiry received a second place finish nationally in the 2020 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for Best Feature Series. A Nova Scotia native, who has called Antigonish home for the past decade, Lowthers has a strong passion in telling people’s stories in a creative, yet thought-provoking way. He graduated from the journalism program at Holland College in 2016, where he played varsity football with the Hurricanes. His simple pleasures in life include his two children, photography, live music and the local sports scene.