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Giving to Higher Education: Philanthropy That Builds Canada’s Future

We’ve long been fans of the hard work higher education advancement departments do on behalf of their institutions and students. Funds raised by advancement professionals literally help to keep the lights on (through capital campaigns) and keep students in school (through scholarship campaigns).

This article was written for HigherEdPoints by The Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave. – Calvin Coolidge

What is philanthropy, if not the ultimate expression of placing value on a relationship? A philanthropic donation to an educational institution says: “I value what you contribute to current and future generations of students and to society. This gift expresses my support.”

Philanthropy and education in North America have been intertwined since 1638, when John Harvard bequeathed his library and half of his estate to a newly-founded school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the 20th and 21st Centuries, professionals in the advancement of education in Canada have recognized the essential role philanthropy plays in sustaining the quality of education and have forged significant, lasting ties to potential donors and supporters. Those ties have yielded huge results for Canadian educational institutions, and for Canada’s place in a competitive, knowledge-rich world.

The need is greater now than ever. Canada’s post-secondary education institutions educate a far higher proportion of Canadian youth than in decades past, even as they have endured major proportional decreases in government funding. Tuition increases – necessary to supplant dwindling government support – result in graduates who face significant debt loads. Infrastructure maintenance and upgrades require capital funding. Into these gaps step generous donors.

Philanthropic gifts are the fruit of intensive, usually long-term relationships. Finding and building such relationships, and promoting education as a vital element of society, is the essence of the advancement of education.

The Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE) celebrates relationships with philanthropists who help build Canada’s future through CCAE’s annual Friend of Education Award, supported by The Offord Group.

Over the years, CCAE Friends of Education have ranged from corporate titans to university professors and Deans; from family Foundations to financial institutions and entrepreneurs. Of varying means and backgrounds, each CCAE Friend of Education represents many thousands of individuals and entities that recognize the supreme value of education, along with our collective responsibility to support it.

About the 2015 CCAE Friends of Education, Fondation J.-Louis Lévesque and Suzanne Lévesque, a nominator wrote:

“A great philanthropist, Mme Lévesque is above all a compassionate woman who believes firmly that teaching and research have the power to improve society today and in the future in all aspects.”

Eric Newell, the 2014 CCAE Friend of Education, fulfilled his personal pledge to place post-secondary education within reach deserving students and students in need. A nominator wrote:

“His outstanding service has led to the development of scholarships and has strengthened the quality of education for numerous students. He and his wife, Kathy, have always supported scholarships and bursaries, and they have chosen to invest in education by investing directly in young people.”

Colleges and universities reach out not only to generous donors but also to members of their surrounding communities, seeking and providing mutual benefits to community members and organizations. Service, leadership and many forms of “giving back” are part of the philanthropic equation. To instill in students and new graduates a strong sense of their role in building a culture of philanthropy has become a key goal of many post-secondary institutions.

The “virtuous circle” of giving to education, and schools giving back to the community, will thrive and grow as more Canadians recognize the importance of philanthropy that supports the bedrock of our society: education.


The Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE), established in 1993, is a non-profit, volunteer-led organization that promotes excellence in educational advancement. CCAE provides opportunities for networking, professional development, and mutual support for those who work to advance and promote Canadian education. CCAE members represent universities, colleges, polytechnics, independent schools and cégeps and work in the educational advancement areas of advancement services, alumni relations, communications and marketing, fundraising (development), external relations, and any other unit or department that works to advance education in Canada.

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