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Making a difference

Mount Royal University is changing the face of education with the largest fundraising campaign in its 100-year history.

The campaign’s target is $250 million — $125 from private donors and $125 in public funding.funds raised

At today’s (April 11) launch it was revealed that more than half the money has been raised by a team led by four co-chairs — Hal Kvisle, former president and CEO of TransCanada Corporation; Bruce MacKenzie, regional president for Alberta and the Territories RBC; Jennifer Pierce, vice president Commercial Management, TransAlta Corporation; and Mount Royal President Dave Marshall.

During the launch, three donations were also announced — $250,000 from ARC Resources, $1 million from TransAlta Corporation and $5 million from David and Leslie Bissett, bringing the funds raised to date to $141,775,500.

“We are well on our way to reaching our campaign goal, and it is gratifying today to see such a broad range of support from donors throughout our community,” says Mount Royal President, Dave Marshall.

The campaign will help Mount Royal meet its aspiration of becoming Canada’s premier undergraduate university based on all measures of student success and satisfaction. The money raised will be used on three student-focused priorities:

  • Learning opportunities — student scholarships and bursaries
  • Learning environment — establishing six Centres of Excellence
  • Learning spaces — expanding student research facilities for Science and Health as well as building a new Conservatory and concert hall and a Library and Learning Centre

As the campaign moves forward raising the remaining funds, read the stories below to meet the people whare making a difference to students through their donations, as well as some of the students who are benefiting.

enriched learning environmentsexceptional learning spaces learning opportunities 

Generosity started today, continues tomorrow

David and Leslie Bissett are powering the future of business through their support of Mount Royal University’s Bissett School of Business. The exceptional learning environment they’ve helped to create will fuel the entrepreneurial spirit and business leaders who will ensure the prosperity and well-being of the entire community. Their investment in students is already paying dividends. Maeghan Smulders is determined to follow the Bissetts’ lead.

Sharing the dividends of career and community success

David Bissett knows the value of an investment — and of hard work.

 Leslie and David Bissett
Donors — Leslie and David Bissett

The founder of Bissett Investment Management built a respected finance career by offering sound advice and managing billions of dollars in clients’ assets to generate positive returns. He and his wife, Leslie, see their support for Mount Royal University students continuing that decades-long tradition.

Among their many philanthropic endeavours, the Bissetts have given more than $17 million to Mount Royal. The Bissett School of Business, and the building in which it is housed, are named in their honour.

The Bissetts’ fundamental investment, however, is not in real estate but in the thousands of students.

“I have seen a contrast between Mount Royal and other post-secondary institutions,” David Bissett says. “Teaching and experience are the main focus at Mount Royal. I see a much greater utility to Alberta, and more specifically Calgary, in a business school that is creating a large pool of skilled people with a strong grounding in business practices.”

That foundation, he believes, is central to the creation of new enterprises, the successful growth and leadership of existing ones, the ability to capitalize on myriad opportunities present in Calgary now and to emerge in coming years — and to doing the job well.

“A lot of businesses get started without any skill background and understanding of ... all those things you need to be a successful business person,” he says, noting that a combination of education, experience and optimism is needed for business dreams to become reality.

Humility and philanthropy are equally important traits of a successful business person.

“When you’re capable, start giving back to the community,” he tells students. “Get involved. You won’t regret it.”

A life changed today, a life to be changed tomorrow

Maeghan Smulders exudes confidence and readily credits the Bissett School of Business for changing her life.

Maeghan Smulders
Student — Maeghan Smulders

“Mount Royal has empowered me,” says the fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management student, who admits to struggling with questions about her own abilities when she started at the University.

“The school is awesome at fostering initiative,” she says. “My business degree is going to let me do whatever interests me, whether that’s starting my own business or being an entrepreneur in a big company.”

From the well-rounded and inclusive learning atmosphere, to the supportive professors, to the opportunity to take her studies to China for a semester, the result has been a life transformation.

Joining SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise), an extra-curricular group that gives students the opportunity to put what they learn in the classroom to work helping business people in the community, was a “wow moment” and a decision that Smulders says will resonate throughout her life. She served as president last year and says: “This has hugely changed me. I’m so grateful for the development and the opportunities.

“Helping people is something I’m passionate about,” she explains. “SIFE has shown me that although I am one person, I can make a difference — and do something that I love."

“The return has been way greater than I expected it to be.”

David Bissett, after whom the business school is named, has played a major part in making that return possible through financial support that has enriched the learning environment and time spent personally engaged with students.

“He’s so open and has pride in the young leaders he’s developing,” Smulders says. “He has a genuine patience, understanding and interest in my well-being and my schooling.

“He has changed my perspective on what I can be and what I want to be. When I ‘grow up’ and become successful, I’ll try do to the same thing with others.”

Mount Royal and the Bissett School of Business, she says, have given her more than anything she ever could have asked for.

“I know the future will be anything I want it to be,” she concludes. “I have the education, skills, experience and confidence — and a school that believes in me.”

A place to learn — a place to hear dreams come true

Having the right environment in which to learn, practice and perform is pivotal to the development of students bound for international music careers. An outstanding concert hall that brings together young talents and audiences can create shared experiences that last a lifetime. Through their generosity, Don Taylor and his family are helping to provide the learning spaces that will shape those musical moments — and to enable gifted young students like Tate Zawadiuk and Yan Li to realize their dreams.

Working in concert to score a musical hit

A pioneering spirit, a love of education and an appreciation for the arts run deeply in the Taylor family. They’re sharing that passion by funding a stunning new home for music and the performing arts at Mount Royal University.

 Don and Ruth Taylor
 Donors — Don and Ruth Taylor

Alberta businessman Don Taylor is best known for transforming a once-struggling Engineered Air into a market leader in North America. What’s perhaps less known is the sizable yet quiet contribution he’s made to arts and education in Calgary over the decades.

Mount Royal University is a grateful beneficiary of that generosity. A $20-million gift from Taylor and his family — the largest in Mount Royal’s history — is helping to establish a new and innovative integrated teaching and performance facility for the Mount Royal University Conservatory. It is set to open in 2013.

At its heart will be The Bella Concert Hall, named after the Taylor family matriarch, Mary Belle Taylor, who was known to friends and family as Bella.

“She would be very proud to have her name associated with the University,” Taylor says of his mother, an Alberta homesteader who inspired her family to give to the community. “She was a strong supporter of education.

“More than just a concert hall, this is a facility for training young musicians.”

The facility will include the 750-seat Bella Concert Hall, 79 teaching studios, six ensemble rehearsal studios, a recording studio and video-conference facilities. Adaptable and beautifully designed, it is destined to become a beacon of cultural activity for performers and patrons from across Canada.

“There is a fair amount of pride and I hope all of my family will have that pride,” Taylor says of his support for a one-of-a-kind project that will have national impact. “I hope some place up there, some of my ancestors are looking down and are proud to have their name associated with this.”

Music students take performing to a higher level

Tate Zawadiuk and Yan Li hope the stage of The Bella will help lead them to the stages of the world.

Yan Li and Tate Zawadiuk
Students — Yan Li, left, and Tate Zawadiuk

These remarkable and award-winning young students in the Conservatory’s acclaimed Academy of Music program — Zawadiuk, who plays the cello, is 13, and Li, a violinist, is the youngest in the program at 11 — have their hearts set on performance careers that one day may take them to Carnegie Hall or London.

When The Bella opens, they’ll learn, practice and perform in a world-class venue designed to help get them on their way.

“I’m excited to play in the new hall,” says Zawadiuk, who loves the thrill of performing. “When you’re learning, it’s important to learn what a good hall is like. This will be high calibre and everything will sound really good. It will be a new adventure and a new experience.”

Li is equally enthusiastic and is confident the concert hall and the facility’s large teaching and rehearsal spaces will make a difference to her and to thousands of Conservatory students each year.

“I love to perform and this will be a great opportunity for the audience and [me] to enjoy the music together,” she says. “The audience is important. They’re kind of like a cheerleading team and they help me perform better.”

The Bella means “more people will get to hear music and enjoy it — and give support to the students who are playing.”

Zawadiuk hopes the new, professional facility may help encourage more young people to explore their own music careers.

“The Conservatory works really hard to promote their students, to connect them [with renowned international performers who also teach], and to give kids opportunities that will help them in their careers as musicians.”

And what music would Zawadiuk and Li especially like to hear performed at The Bella? “A solo Bach piece or a really big concerto,” Li says with a laugh. “Something with lots of sound would be really neat.”

Reward and inspiration found in scholarships

If today’s students are the promise of tomorrow, then recognizing their achievements and motivating them to excel in their studies has to be one of the best ways to ensure a bright future for everyone. RBC has a keen understanding of how financial incentives like scholarships can make a difference in the lives of students, and how the benefits of their success can ripple across communities. Sarah Golby is one of those students — and her appreciation and gratitude for a scholarship is inspiring her to give back.

Supporting students, supporting success

Perhaps no company in Canada knows more about the power of financial support than RBC.

 RBC's Wafa Kadri
Donor — RBC's Wafa Kadri

For more than a century, the nation’s largest bank has helped individuals and organizations across Canada realize their goals and aspirations. It knows first-hand how well-timed support can transform lives and propel businesses. And nowhere is the impact of financial support more evident, or far-reaching, than when it encourages the success of a student.

“We believe that investing in education is one of the most important things we can do,” says Wafa Kadri, Manager, Community Investments & Marketing, Public Affairs, RBC. “We are investing in the next generation of business leaders and benefitting the entire community.

“As Albertans and Canadians, we all share in their achievements. It is an honour and a privilege for us to work with Mount Royal University ... and to support the success of students.”

RBC has been a valued partner and generous contributor to Mount Royal over the decades, sponsoring events, funding scholarships and, most recently, contributing $1.1 million to create the RBC Learning Lab in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre at the Bissett School of Business.

Through many projects and programs, RBC has consistently invested in students — and their potential.

“What they do with their knowledge and skills will make a difference to families and communities, and make an important contribution to Canada’s continued economic growth and diversity,” says Kadri.

“We are proud to play a part in students’ future career and life success — and delighted to help them bring their dreams to life.”

Recognizing achievement also inspires giving

To say that Sarah Golby was ecstatic when she was told she’d received a $5,000 RBC Pearls of Wisdom scholarship would be an understatement.

 Student Sarah Golby
Student — Sarah Golby

She had no idea that she’d been nominated by her professor. She knew she didn’t have the top grades in her class, and was surprised when her great attitude, work ethic and potential were appreciated by someone she respected.

“It was one of the better phone calls I’ve ever received,” says Golby, who received the award at Mount Royal’s 2010 Pearls of Wisdom gala and graduated from the Bachelor of Applied Science — Environmental Science program in December. “I was on cloud nine. It was a real ‘shock and wow’ moment.

“My professor made the call based on who I was as a person. It wasn’t about the numbers, it was about me — just like Mount Royal University itself is.

“It’s really great to know that someone thinks that highly of you. It was great to be recognized for all the work and time you’ve spent learning and writing exams, all the tough slogging. It was nice to see results other than that final transcript.”

The scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time. Because of tight finances, Golby was planning to slow down her schooling to get a job so she could pay for her last Directed Field Studies work experience placement.

Instead of having one more semester with no income, she was able to graduate just a little sooner than expected. That, in turn, made it possible to land a job, get her career underway and begin paying back her student loan.

And “paying back” is also something she’s been inspired to do by RBC.

“I don’t think companies realize the kind of opportunities they give people [when they support scholarships]. It makes a bigger difference than they realize.

“They’re leading by example and I have a lot of gratitude for what they’ve done. What RBC and Mount Royal have done for me will definitely make me donate in the future.

“What goes around comes around.”

For more about the Changing the Face of Education: a Centennial Campaign for Mount Royal University, see Giving to Mount Royal.