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Already on the upswing in the standings, McGill University's women's hockey program will also receive a record boost to its chequebook in the form of a $1-million donation today.

The landmark gift comes from Toronto couple David and Sheryl Kerr, both McGill alumni who have a strong connection to the university's hockey programs. The donation will surpass the previous record amount given to a Canadian women's university athletics program by more than $600,000.

"It is a wonderful day for women's athletics, as well as the future of the Martlets hockey program," McGill athletic director Derek Drummond said. "The generosity of David and Sheryl's gift will ensure that our women's hockey team will always have a full-time head coach."

David Kerr, 63, skated for McGill's men's hockey team, the Redmen, from 1961 to 1965, earning a bachelor of science degree and serving as team captain in his final season. While still a player with the men's squad, he served as coach of the women's team that his future wife Sheryl played on in 1963-64.

David Kerr would go on to join Noranda Inc. as vice-president of strategic planning in development in 1986, and was promoted to president of the multinational mining and natural resource company a year later. Kerr eventually served as Noranda's chair and chief executive officer, before stepping down from the CEO role in 2002.

Sheryl Kerr said she and her husband had wanted to make a contribution to the program after meeting Martlets head coach Peter Smith and his team.

"Our time at McGill was very special," said Sheryl Kerr, who graduated from McGill with a degree in commerce in 1967. "I was born in Montreal but grew up in Belleville [Ont.] so I didn't know anybody when I got to McGill. Initially, playing hockey for the university was my whole life. The camaraderie in athletics was wonderful for me and that's where I first met my husband-to-be.

"We felt that it was important to give something back to the program that did so much for us."

The $1-million donation means Smith will now assume a full-time role with the team in an endowed position known as the Kerr Women's Hockey Coach. In his eighth season at the helm of McGill, Smith has led the No. 1-ranked Martlets to a 17-1-0 record this Canadian Interuniversity Sport season.

Smith also serves as an assistant coach with the Canadian national women's program, including the team that won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Turin last February.

"It is a great boost for women's hockey," said Smith, who will relinquish his duties as McGill's athletics facilities manager to concentrate on the hockey program full-time beginning next season. "Gifts of this magnitude may inspire other potential donors - not just for McGill but, hopefully, for other university women's programs."

The previous record for a donation to a Canadian women's university sports program was a $360,000 gift by T.D. (Davey) Einarsson to the University of Manitoba's volleyball endowment fund in 2006.

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