University of Calgary

Campus community celebrates Taylor family’s historic donation

UToday HomeApril 15, 2013

Don Taylor visits with university and government officials on Friday, April 12, 2013, at the announcement of his family's record-breaking $40-million donation to the University of Calgary.Don Taylor visits with university and government officials on Friday, April 12, 2013, at the announcement of his family's record-breaking $40-million donation to the University of Calgary. The gift establishes the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. Photo by Riley BrandtA rapt audience stood in silence, with some craning from the second-floor balcony of the Taylor Family Digital Library, to listen as Calgary philanthropist Don Taylor humbly explained why his family was making the single largest donation in the University of Calgary’s history.

Taylor says it was a “happy moment” to unveil his family’s $40 million gift to create the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, an initiative which will transform teaching and learning across Canada for decades to come.

The institute, which will be housed in a new, bright and airy two-storey building that will open in 2016, will research innovative education practices to help create better teachers here on campus, throughout the K to 12 educational system in Alberta, and beyond.

Standing in the foyer of the Taylor Family Digital Library—another landmark building made possible by his family’s generosity—Taylor shared memories of his “agony” as a young student where he says: “I learned the hard way how to learn.”

Taylor told the audience the idea of the Institute “struck me as being the vanguard of a new wave of education at the university level. I felt that this school was going to be able to lead all schools in new ways to teach students.”

He explained his family’s philosophy of giving. Rather than ‘handouts,’ he says, they believe in giving a ‘hand up.’ “Elizabeth says Eyes High, we say hands high!” he said to huge applause.

He also issued a challenge to other Calgary philanthropists.

“I don’t want the record of $40 million to stand for long,” Taylor says, referencing his historic gift to the University of Calgary. “I hope that there are people and corporations out there who will step forward and break that record very soon.”

President Elizabeth Cannon thanked the Taylor family for their “tremendous leadership.” She says the Institute will have a huge impact on teaching and learning across North America.

“It’s a game changer because you look at how teaching is evolving, you see these massive open online courses, you see technology in a classroom, we’re seeing how students learn differently—they’re in the community, they’re working in interdisciplinary teams,” says Cannon.

“We have to keep pace, we have to do research, see what works and what doesn’t and use that to stay on the leading edge.”

Cannon says the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning will play a crucial role in the university’s Eyes High strategy to become among the top five research universities in Canada by 2016, where innovative teaching and ground breaking research go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead.

Philanthropist Ruth Taylor greets government officials at the ceremony announcing the Taylor family's donation to the University of Calgary. Photo by Riley BrandtPhilanthropist Ruth Taylor greets government officials at the ceremony announcing the Taylor family's donation to the University of Calgary. Photo by Riley Brandt“Great cities need great universities and great universities need great support,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi told the audience. He also thanked the Taylors for their “extraordinary generosity,” adding that generations of students will benefit from what the Institute learns about great teaching.

“This is not only an Institute for post-secondary students but for researchers, educators and for building that transition between a K to 12 education system and a post-secondary system,” says Premier Alison Redford, who was also on hand to celebrate this donation. “It will lead to even greater success than we’ve had in this city, on the campus and in this province. On behalf of our province, thank you very, very much.”

After the speeches, many guests toured three student displays set up in the foyer: a model of the award-winning Cenovus Spo'pi Solar House created by students in different faculties, a state-of-the-art MRI viewer that was created by computer science students on the fourth floor of the TFDL, and ‘The Report of the Philosopher Kings,’ research conducted by the Arts and Science Honours Academy.

Later, in a private gathering, Cannon and Provost Dru Marshall presented the Taylor family with the brass letter “T” from the original University of Calgary signage on University Drive. “Given all that they’ve contributed to make our campus great, I think it’s very symbolic of the relationship between the Taylor Family and the University of Calgary,” Cannon says.

“Really it’s about family, and they’re part of our family.”

 

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