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Thérèse Takacs, St. Mary’s University’s VP Advancement, alongside the renovated wooden water tower, one of several designated provincial heritage buildings on the university’s campus that dates to the early 1900s. Now painted in heritage-appropriate Canadian Pacific Railway red, the hexagon-shaped interior of the water tower was transformed into the Heritage Centre art gallery.Supplied

Students, staff and faculty at St. Mary’s University in Calgary, Alberta, are united in their common purpose to make a positive impact on their community and the world at large, says Thérèse Takacs, the university’s vice president, Advancement.

This commitment builds on the original vision of the group who founded the university and inspired its focus on social justice more than 30 years ago.

As an independent university, St. Mary’s receives no government funds for capital projects and must finance these through philanthropy. In recent years, donors have enabled the university to add the Heritage Centre building – a dynamic facility of integrated areas, offering the flexibility and adaptability to create exceptional learning and teaching environments; two classrooms to accommodate a third cohort for St. Mary’s very successful Bachelor of Education program; a rare collection room at the library and renovate a historic wooden water tower to create an art gallery.

St. Mary’s student body has grown by 50 per cent in the last three years mainly due to its geographical position in southeast Calgary, where it is the only university serving communities like Okotoks and High River, plus its philosophy of small class sizes of up to 25 students, says Ms. Takacs.

“With an enrolment of just over 1,000, we’re the right fit for students who may not want to go from high school straight to a lecture class of 300 students,” she says. “With the small class sizes, professors notice if someone is not doing well and can provide that extra bit of one-on-one attention that sometimes makes a world of difference,” she adds.

“At a school like St. Mary’s, small, medium and large donations are all equally important; they are all parts of the puzzle” says Ms. Takacs, who adds the university currently aims to raise $5.3-million a year. This donation target could change in a few years. As St. Mary’s looks ahead, and with a vision to cap growth at 2,500 students and maintain the 25-student class size, two committees are working to assess the staff, faculty and space requirements for an expanded campus. That expansion will require a fundraising campaign and support from donors who share St. Mary’s mission and mandate.

“If we look at giving trends, we know millennials and Gen Z want to know that what they’re doing makes a difference. They want to be engaged and not only give, but also become involved. Parents and 55-plus donors are motivated to see a return on investment. Today, donors want transparency, and organizations like St. Mary’s are responding to this need,” she says.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.