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The two-time McGill University graduate and 2004 honorary degree recipient returned to his alma mater to attend the opening of the new music building on September 30 and to provide the Faculty of Music with a $20 million donation.
In recognition of his extraordinary gift — Canada's biggest benefaction towards a university-based arts program — the Faculty of Music will now be called the Schulich School of Music of McGill University.
The 100-year-old Faculty of Music is the first McGill program to be named in honour of an individual.
The funds will be used to launch 40 annual Schulich Scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students. His donation will also enable the creation of two endowed chairs that will help McGill recruit the best minds in music teaching and research. And eight million dollars of his gift has been applied towards McGill's cutting-edge new music building — a $70-million project.
"Seymour Schulich has directed his philanthropy where it will have an unprecedented impact on student scholarships and culture," said Principal Heather Munroe-Blum. "He has been groundbreakingly generous and strategic, in keeping with his belief in the responsibility of those more fortunate to apply their wealth to the greater public good."
With this latest gift, the 65-year-old Schulich has contributed in excess of $100 million of his personal fortune to education. His family name appears in four academic streams at universities across Canada: music at McGill, management at York, medicine and dentistry at the University of Western Ontario and engineering at the University of Calgary.
Schulich had previously donated about $3 million to McGill, which went towards Libraries, the Schulich Library of Science and Engineering, as well as the Faculty of Management.
He's also provided an additional $50 million to other causes, including the Schulich Heart Centre at Sunnybrook and the Women's College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.
His latest gift to McGill, he stresses, was a new direction for him. "Most of my prior gifts were for practical and hard-core programs."
Joe Sorbara, a Toronto real estate developer and director of the Toronto Symphony, uttered six words that ultimately convinced Schulich to make one of Canada's largest personal contributions to the cultural sector: "Music is what makes us human."
Another determining factor was Schulich's wife of 36 years, Tanna. Since she is an amateur violinist he wanted to name the Faculty of Music in her honour. But she declined.
Daughters Deborah and Judith convinced their mother to allow a space in the new music building to be named after her: the Tanna Schulich Recital Hall. "They were the real power," Schulich chuckles.
Schulich says his closest link to all things musical is his affection for the folk genre. "There was a time I could play 200 songs by ear on the guitar," he recalls.
The benefactor hasn't had much time to devote to music, since he's been busy becoming a mining magnate. Indeed, he pioneered a unique concept of royalty payments in the mining industry that enabled Franco-Nevada, the company he co-launched with business partner Pierre Lassonde, to become the world's premier resource royalty company.
In 2002, Schulich engineered a merger of Franco-Nevada to create Newmont Mining Corporation — now one of the largest gold mining companies in the world. Today, Schulich remains as Chairman of Newmont Capital Ltd., the merchant banking arm of Newmont Mining.
"Everyone in the Faculty of Management knew that Seymour was a whiz kid in finance," recalls Don Armstrong, a retired Faculty of Management professor, who taught Schulich in the 1960s.
But Schulich has given back some of his good fortune to society, which he considers a duty. "Everyone who enjoys Canada's freedoms and standard of living, if able, has an obligation to give back," he says. "It doesn't matter what you give as long as you give back; giving time and talent are just as important."
Schulich pauses and says he's bothered that Canada's wealthy don't support charitable causes to the extent of their American peers. "We give 44 percent less, per capita, than Americans," he says. "Why should that be?"
"What better way to give back than to invest in the education of future generations?" explains Schulich of his desire to support students.
His philanthropy has earned him many distinctions, including his membership in the Order of Canada and an honorary degree from York University.
It seems prophetic that a quote included in his 1961 McGill Yearbook profile became his creed: "Life is my college," it reads. "May I graduate well and earn some honours."
Schulich has done exceedingly well throughout his enterprising life. "I call it a combination of luck and hard work," he says.
In most cases, his donations have gone towards the establishment of scholarships. The reason? "Students should not have to graduate with debt," he says, stressing that scholarships are better than loans wherever possible.
Schulich knows first-hand the importance of academic support. Summer jobs spent working in glass and box factories, he recalls, "showed me if I didn't smarten up that would be my fate."
He became the first member of his family to attend university; he received a McGill BSc in 1961. Schulich credits the $1,600 scholarship, received from the Bache & Co., with enabling him to complete his MBA at McGill in 1965.
"That scholarship changed my life. It allowed me to gain eight years of business experience in just two years," he says, noting he later obtained a degree as a chartered financial analyst from the University of Virginia in 1969. "To this day, I still use what I learned in some MBA classes when making decisions."
Schulich says his gift to McGill could be the last his family makes for the foreseeable future. "We could not be more pleased or proud to finalize this particular gift," he says.
"The impact of Seymour Schulich on higher education is huge," marvels Don McLean, dean of the Schulich School of Music. "Over the next century, his combined gifts across this country will have enabled 20,000 Canadian students to obtain Schulich Scholarships. That's enough people to fill McGill's Molson Stadium."
For more information on the new music building, see www.mcgill.ca/music/schulich/building.