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IMP International Group executive chairman Ken Rowe

A top Atlantic Canada business leader, warning his region must be internationally competitive, has donated $15-million to Dalhousie University's school of business.

The gift, the largest donation by a Nova Scotian to the university, comes from Ken Rowe, executive chairman of IMP International Group Inc.

"The whole idea is to raise the bar in making our region more competitive, by having more higher-trained business leaders in the future," he said in an interview before Thursday's announcement in Halifax.

In the 1990s, Mr. Rowe was instrumental in arguing for Dalhousie to retain its business school, which currently enrolls about 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students and is the largest of four professional schools within the faculty of management. Six years ago, he was a prominent donor who assisted in construction of a new $25-million building that bears his name and brings all four schools under one roof.

In prepared remarks for Thursday's announcement in Halifax, Mr. Rowe warned that "Canada, and particularly our region, needs to be more innovative in expanding our global trade in an increasing competitive world. To do this, we and other business schools need to train, to a maximum level of excellence, our future business leaders and, hopefully, many of them will stay in our region to grow our regional economy to the benefit of all."

Peggy Cunningham, dean of the faculty of management, says the size of the gift "validates us."

Some of the funds, to be dispersed over the next 10 years, will pay for new entrance scholarships to attract top students and to provide students with financial support to compete in national and international case competitions.

In consultation with faculty, she says Mr. Rowe's donation also will go to support "leading edge research, attract guest scholars and invest in high-quality curriculum.

"Dalhousie school of business has been the best-kept secret in the country," she argues. "It has excellent students and programs now but it will take us to the next level and allow us to do things that move you from a good business school to a great business school."

Dean Cunningham says that, with Mr. Rowe's donation, her management faculty has secured $24-million of its $27-million funding target, a portion of the university's over-all $250-million fundraising campaign now under way for the campus.

Mr. Rowe, 77, says he hopes his investment will lead to national recognition for Dalhousie as "one of the best business schools in Canada to go to…and that the better students will want to come to Dalhousie for that kind of learning."

IMP Group Ltd., one of the largest privately owned businesses in Nova Scotia, has operations that include aerospace, healthcare, hotels and resorts, information services, and properties and development. The Halifax company has been recognized as one of Canada's best managed companies and in 2010, was named one of Canada's top 100 employers by the Globe and Mail.