Calgary oil field entrepreneur and businessman David P. Werklund has donated $25-million to the University of Calgary’s faculty of education – the largest-ever gift to a Canadian teachers college.
Mr. Werklund describes himself as “a non-academic” – he did not finish high school. But his own path to business success only reinforced his conviction about the value of education and exposure to great teachers.
His gift will support initiatives ranging from undergraduate leadership awards, graduate fellowships and teaching innovation projects to upgrades to the university’s education complex. In a province where oil and related industries offer the lure of well-paid jobs at a young age, Mr. Werklund has made a point of driving home the benefits of education.
“This is a way for me to support what the university is already doing,” Mr. Werklund said. “I believe that our younger generation would benefit from going out and working in the front lines, as I like to call it. But that’s only a part of their life’s journey. … When I hear an employee of ours working on a rig and talking about taking his money and going to university, I am so encouraged.”
Of the total gift, $15-million will be put in an endowment to support scholarships, fellowships, three research professorships and a fund to help students attend conferences. But it will also provide up to $50,000 annually for a teaching innovation fund starting next year.
“Part of it is to ensure that we’re on the leading edge of evidence-based practices for teaching and learning,” said Elizabeth Cannon, UCalgary’s president. “It’s very important that when you look at some of these emerging trends, that you’re not just adopting what’s there, but you’re also contributing to the knowledge base.”
Dr. Cannon also called the donation “a huge vote of confidence” in the university.
Mr. Werklund’s gift is the latest of several large donations the university has announced recently, including $142.5-million in provincial government funds and another $7-million from Canadian Natural Resources Limited to expand and renovate the university’s Schulich School of Engineering. It is not the first time Mr. Werklund has given to UCalgary – his past philanthropy had already helped establish the university’s Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership in Education.