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merlis belsher

the University of Saskatchewan’s men’s and women’s hockey teams, the Huskies, will have new home ice when Merlis Belsher Place is built.

History was made recently when University of Saskatchewan (U of S) commerce and law graduate Merlis Belsher contributed $12.25-million to help fund a new twin-pad ice facility to replace 87-year-old Rutherford Rink. Mr. Belsher's gift is the largest donation from an alumnus and individual in the university's history.

Saskatoon community members, Huskie athletes, university representatives and hockey aficionados gathered for the special occasion, which also marked the public launch of the Home Ice Campaign. Led by alumnus and hockey legend Dave King, the university, minor league hockey and community volunteers will ask the public to raise $7-million to fund the new facility.

Mr. Belsher explained his intention for the gift. "I made this donation because of my gratitude for the University of Saskatchewan – it provided me with confidence and education in two professions. That was my doorway to a satisfying career in the manufacturing industry."

Merlis BelsherMerlis Belsher contributed $12.25-million to help fund a new ice facility to replace 87-year-old Rutherford Rink.

The accomplished accountant, lawyer, entrepreneur and philanthropist said his success started when he first came to the U of S. He graduated with a bachelor of commerce in 1957 and was admitted to the Saskatchewan Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1960. He returned to pursue a law degree, graduating in 1963, and was admitted to the Law Society of Saskatchewan the following year. A businessman by nature, he then purchased Weldon's Concrete Products in Saskatoon. Through acquisitions and expansion, he grew the business to be a leader in Western Canada, eventually selling it in 2008 to Oldcastle, an international firm.

Finding success in not one but multiple professions took dedication and a strong work ethic. For Mr. Belsher, it also required a community of support. When he was just 15 years old, both his parents died tragically in a blizzard near their homestead. As a result, Mr. Belsher found himself alone at an early age.

It was thanks to a caring group of community members and two older siblings that he was guided to his new home at Luther College in Regina, Sask., to finish high school. His interest in pursuing a university education deepened thanks to the encouragement of his teachers, but it was his mother – an elementary school teacher – to whom he gives the most credit. She instilled the importance of education and hard work in him from an early age; now he's reaped the rewards of those values.

"I've been very fortunate in my life," he explained. "If I had one wish, it would be that my mother could see how much education has helped me."

Education has since become a major focus in Mr. Belsher's philanthropic and volunteer efforts; he's served his alma mater in commerce and law advisory roles, and has been giving back for decades to support students.

"I made this donation because of my gratitude for the University of Saskatchewan."

- Merlis Belsher
contributed $12.25-million to help fund a new twin-pad ice facility at the University of Saskatchewan

An avid sports fan and a former athlete and hockey coach, Mr. Belsher can also relate to the importance of athletics in youth life. He's most excited that his donation will help increase the amount of ice time available for minor league hockey players and U of S recreation and varsity teams.

Although the new ice facility will be named after him – Merlis Belsher Place – Mr. Belsher remains humble and says he did not make the contribution for the recognition. He made it to help university students.

"This is about the university, not me," he says. "If you see a good cause, you get fulfilled by getting involved."

This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.