David and Sheryl Kerr, both Montreal natives who now reside in Toronto, have bestowed a $1 million gift to the McGill University women's hockey team.
It is the largest single donation to a women's sports program in Canadian university history, surpassing the previous record high of $360,000 from T.D. Davey Einarsson to the University of Manitoba's volleyball endowment fund in 2006, a gift which also generated an identical matching grant from the government of Manitoba.
"It is a wonderful day for women's athletics as well as the future of the Martlets hockey program," said Prof. Derek Drummond, director of athletics at McGill. "The generosity of David and Sheryl's gift will ensure that our women's hockey team will always have a full-time head coach."
Kerr, the 63-year-old former chair and chief executive officer of Noranda, received a bachelor of science degree from McGill in 1965. He played varsity hockey for the McGill Redmen from 1961 to 1965, serving as captain in his final season. Kerr coached the McGill women's hockey team in 1963-64, where he met Sheryl Drysdale, a player on the squad whom he later married. She graduated from McGill with a commerce degree in 1967.
"Our time at McGill was very special," said Mrs. Kerr. "I was born in Montreal but grew up in Belleville, so I didn't know anybody when I got to McGill. Initially, playing hockey for the university was my whole life. The camaraderie in athletics was wonderful for me and that's where I first met my husband-to-be. We made many friends on campus and McGill has been an important part of our lives. In recent visits to the campus, we had the occasion to meet head coach Peter Smith and his team. We felt that it was important to give something back to the program that did so much for us."
With 49 intercollegiate sports teams, McGill's varsity program is the largest in the country but full-time coaching positions are limited to football, women's volleyball, swimming, men's and women's basketball and now, both hockey teams.
Kerr's gift to the Department of Athletics allows Peter Smith, head coach of the hockey Martlets and an assistant with the Canadian national team, to become the first recipient of an endowed named coaching position, to be known as the "Kerr Women's Hockey Coach". The full-time status will also bolster the coach's ability to recruit top student-athletes to McGill.
"It is a great boost for women's hockey," said Smith — in his eighth season behind the McGill bench — who will relinquish his other departmental duties in the spring to focus his time on being a full-time coach. "Gifts of this magnitude may inspire other potential donors — not just for McGill but hopefully for other university women's programs."
The Martlets, which first began playing in 1896, are in the midst of their best season in history. They are ranked No. 1 in Canada and finished regular-season play with a 17-1-0 record. Currently leading Concordia 1-0 in a Quebec conference semifinal playoff series and heading into Game 2 on Friday, they are attempting to become the first McGill women's team to win a CIS national championship in any sport.