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Wes Nicol has donated $1-million to Carleton University (Blair Gable/Blair Gable for The Globe and Mail)
Wes Nicol has donated $1-million to Carleton University (Blair Gable/Blair Gable for The Globe and Mail)

Giving Back

Building on a charitable foundation Add to ...

The Donor: Wes Nicol

The Gift: $1-million

The Cause: Carleton University

The Reason: To finance a student competition

When Ottawa businessman Wes Nicol donated $200,000 to create a contest for business students 13 years ago, he thought it would remain a small event hosted by Carleton University. Over the years, the Nicol Entrepreneurial Award has become a national competition with competitors from a variety of universities and disciplines.

"I wanted to keep that going," said Mr. Nicol, founder of Tartan Homes, an Ottawa-area builder. "We had a brainstorm and decided to foster more creativity."

Mr. Nicol has now donated $1-million to Carleton to create a campus-wide competition called the Nicol Challenge. The contest, which begins next year, will be open to any student who comes up with an idea that betters the university or the community. Annual prizes could range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. "There will be about $45,000 or $50,000 handed out every year as a reward for meeting the challenge," he said. "If we had $500 prizes, we'd be able to give 90 in a year."

The objective is to reward "unsung heroes" - students who see a problem and come up with a practical solution. "We are trying to encourage them to think out of the box, to find a need and fill it," he said.

Mr. Nicol, 79, has a long attachment to Carleton. He graduated in 1954, working summers in the far north to help pay for his education, and served on the university's board of governors for years. His son now runs the home business, leaving Mr. Nicol time to manage his private foundation.

"I've done quite well and I'd like to give back," he said. "We live comfortably. I want to leave enough for my kids and I want all the rest of it to go into charity. A good chunk of it into Carleton."


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