The faculty of education has been renamed the Werklund School of Education after a $25 million donation from David Werklund, the chairman of energy services company Tervita. The $25 million constitutes the largest private donation ever given to a faculty of education in Canada.
The massive private donation was announced in the MacHall south courtyard on Friday, Nov. 4, by University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon. She began the presentation in dramatic fashion.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here today to announce a historic gift of $25 million from Dr. David Werklund to name the Werklund School of Education,” Cannon said.
Banners reading “Werklund School of Education” streamed down from above as the audience stood clapping, whistling and hooting, with the noise not waning for just over 30 seconds. Cannon then pointed to youth in the audience who gave their names, career aspirations and said the phrase, “I am proud to be a member of the Werklund School of Education.” All the youths had matching shirts that read, “I am the future.”
Throughout the presentation, Cannon showered Werklund with praise, reading out letters from the prime minister, premier and mayor all thanking the wealthy patron for his gift to the university.
“This is a remarkable gift from a remarkable man,” Cannon said.
Werklund then took the podium and explained why he gave the faculty of education this gift.
“A sound education can provide for a quality of life that offers many choices,” Werklund said. “At the faculty of education, I recognized their passion and commitment to driving fundamental change at the university.”
He went on to explain his admiration for university officials and support for the university’s Eyes High goals.
Out of the $25 million donated, $15 million will be used to improve the quality of education at the new school through new fellowships, awards, hiring new professors and the creation of new endowments. The other $10 million will be used to upgrade infrastructure in the Education Complex and invest in research.
The U of C Board of Governors approved renaming the school on Oct. 18. The vote was done In camera, meaning the results are not public.
The change in name has already drawn criticism.
Public Interest Alberta director Bill Moore-Kilgannon said he believes the recent post-secondary budget cuts are forcing universities into a situation where they have to rely on private donations to stay financially stable.
“The seven per cent budget cut brought about this year is driving schools to do whatever they can to make up for that shortfall,” Moore-Kilgannon said. “It’s very nice that a wealthy family feels that they have the resources to contribute a donation to the University of Calgary. I have nothing against them. But we’re not resolving on-going operating problems this way.”
Cannon denied that the selling of the name had anything to do with financial troubles.
“This is not a replacement for government funding, this is value-added,” Cannon said. “This is to allow us to create student experiences and support for our faculty.”