UBC alumnus Dr. Stewart Blusson has donated $50 million to the university, a gift believed to be the largest single donation ever made to a Canadian public institution by an individual or corporation.
"It is an extraordinary gift not simply because of the amount, but because Dr. Blusson has granted us the privilege of allocating the money specifically to research and academic excellence," says UBC President Martha Piper.
Blusson, a geologist and diamond explorer, completed his Bachelor of Science degree at UBC and is now principal shareholder in Archon Minerals Ltd., a mining exploration company based in Vancouver.
"The most important research is often the most basic research, which the public often doesn't get excited about because by itself, it's simply another piece of the puzzle," says Blusson.
Blusson says his donation was motivated in part by the federal government's creation last year of the $800-million Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) fund.
Designed to help universities, colleges and hospitals upgrade their research facilities, the CFI is a five-year program that covers 40 per cent of the cost of facilities, with the remainder coming from the public and private sectors.
Blusson wants a substantial portion of his $50-million gift used to attract CFI funding. This strategy brings the value of the gift to about $150 million over four years.
The donation will not be used for salaries, administration or operations, but rather will support the funding of infrastructure and equipment that will help take UBC to a new level of research and academic excellence in the 21st century, says Piper.
UBC's current annual research budget is about $130 million.
"Dr. Blusson fervently hopes that his gift encourages others to make donations not only to UBC but to universities and research institutions in Canada," says Piper. "It is his firm belief that collectively we can and must improve the level of research and academic excellence across the country."
Blusson worked with the Geological Survey of Canada, leading regional geological mapping and research programs in the central Yukon and parts of B.C.
His knowledge of geology led him to conclude that conditions for Canadian diamond deposits were favorable.
By following trails left when the glaciers melted, Blusson discovered a diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe in 1991 in the Lac Gras area north of Yellowknife.