Music alumni make historic gift to U of S to honour legacy of David L. Kaplan

Xiaoping (Bob) Xu (MA ’92) and wife Ling Chen (MA ’90) have made another notable contribution to their alma mater. The internationally-recognized investor and philanthropist and his wife have donated $2 million to the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) to create the David L. Kaplan Chair in Music in the college of arts and science. The gift is the largest donation from alumni in the college’s history and a generous follow-up to the couple’s $1 million gift to establish the David L. Kaplan Music Scholarship in 2010.

President Peter Stoicheff announced the significant gift at the department of music’s annual student scholarship awards event on April 2. “By establishing a strings program, the Kaplan Chair will make our music program a destination of choice for emerging musicians on the prairies. I’m especially pleased this gift will help us contribute further to our local classical music community and deepen our long-term relationship with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra,” he said.

Ling Chen (MA ’90) and Xiaoping (Bob) Xu (MA ’92).

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Home is where the ice is

As a proud graduate of the University of Saskatchewan (B.Comm. ’52), Greg Greenough believes it is important to stay engaged with the community that provided him with a solid education and years of competitive sport as a Huskie athlete. “It was a special time for me, “says Greenough. “Hockey was a big part of my life when I went to Saskatoon. I could have chosen to go to a number of other universities, but I picked the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), and it was a great decision.” Greenough has been a consistent donor since graduating, and this year, he has involved himself in the Home Ice Campaign.  He chooses to give back to his alma mater in the hopes that students can have a memorable experience during their time at the U of S, just as he did, “You always get back more than what you give,“ he says.

Greg Greenough, (B.Comm. ’52).

After his studies Greenough moved to Alberta for his career, where he went on to be the President of Maclab Enterprises, a private holding company specializing in real estate development, property management, oil and gas and venture capital.  His involvement with sports has taken on a facilitating role with numerous boards and committees, both locally and internationally. He is a former member of the Canadian Olympic Association, was President of the Kinsmen Club, and spent nine years on the board of directors for the Edmonton Eskimo Football Club. Greenough is passionate about providing opportunities for athletes to develop and excel, so it comes as no surprise that he is eagerly anticipating the construction of Merlis Belsher Place.

Thinking back to his time as a Huskie hockey player, Greenough recalls the experience. “It had lots of character,” he chuckles. “It was the only arena that I’m aware of that had an upper level for a dressing room—we would have to climb down with our skates on!”

Greg Greenough at Rutherford Rink.

Greenough believes that the new state-of-the-art facility will give Huskie athletes the advantage they deserve and will attract events that weren’t a possibility before, such as national championships.  “It’s not just about a rink,” he says. “It’s about creating and celebrating a facility that will affect the level of prestige of every graduate and member of our community.”

Truly appreciative of Merlis Belsher’s and Ron and Jane Graham’s outstanding support of the project, Greenough is confident that other alumni will find the Home Ice Campaign an exciting project to get involved with. For him, it was an easy decision to get behind. Merlis Belsher Place will encapsulate the dedication and spirit of many generous supporters who believe in their homeland.

Excitement builds for hockey’s new home

Co-op is an integral part our city.

Saskatoon Co-op has more than 1,200 employees and serves over 107,000 members and their families at Co-op Food Stores, Home Centres, Convenience Stores/Gas Bars, Agro Centre and Liquor Store. As the largest company in the province, Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) supplies and supports retail co-operatives — like Saskatoon Co-op — across Western Canada, employing 1,000 people in the city.

Saskatoon Co-op and FCL are proud to make a $250,000 donation to the Home Ice Campaign.

Grant Whitmore, President, Saskatoon Co-op (photo: Dave Stobbe).

Together, Saskatoon Co-op and FCL are building a strong, vibrant community. They’re proud to give back and invest in local initiatives. Their gift will help the University of Saskatchewan build a new twin-pad ice facility to assist countless athletes for generations to come.

Thanks to their support, Merlis Belsher Place will soon be a reality and will give Huskie athletes and minor league hockey players the opportunity to sharpen their skills in the cutting-edge arena that they deserve.

$90,000 raised on One Day for Students

Thursday, March 9, 2017 was more than a fundraising event for our students—it was a celebration of U of S community spirit. Staff, faculty, alumni, friends and students all took part in raising a record amount during One Day for Students, the fourth annual campaign to help students in all colleges and schools. Collectively, $90,000 was raised in 24 hours, from over 450 donors.

One Day for Students achieved a record-breaking amount of donations this year, which will help students on campus succeed in their studies and personal life (photo: Julie Schappert).

This has been the Nassers’ fourth year matching donations to two special funds—the President’s Student Experience Fund and the Nasser Family Emergency Trust Fund.  The year, however, the Nassers were so inspired by the high level of participation that they also decided to match the funds raised by each of the participating colleges: Medicine, Dentistry, Engineering, and Arts and Science.

Mr. Nasser, one of Saskatoon’s leading property developers and philanthropists, said he is so passionate about supporting students through One Day for Students, because he was thankful to always have support for his own schooling. He said, “If I didn’t get help at many stages when I was a student, I wouldn’t have done as well as I have in my life.”

One Day for Students featured a number of speakers at the keynote address. Professor Emeritus Kay Nasser engaged the audience with his passion for supporting our campus community (photo: Julie Schappert).

One Day for Students is not only significant for the Nassers, but for the many students who rely on the funds to help them pursue once-in-a-lifetime experiences outside of the classroom, or gain support during unexpected financial hardship.

During the keynote addresses at the kick-off for the event in Place Riel, students spoke of the importance of receiving scholarship and bursary support from the One Day-supported funds.

Kiara Calladine, president of the Northern Administration Students Association (NASA), spoke on behalf of their student-run volunteer group, which was supported by the President’s Student Experience Fund. NASA supports the unique needs of Northern students as they transition to post-secondary education through a number of important support services such as tutoring, laptop lending, and their annual Exploration Conference, which introduces high school students to the U of S experience first-hand. Calladine was thankful for the resources that make their programs possible. She said, “The President’s Student Experience Fund is the only way we can bring everyone together.”

Kehan Fu, president of the University of Saskatchewan’s Student Union (USSU), described the impact of the Emergency Student Trust Fund, which provides critical funding for students who are faced with unexpected financial burdens.  He said, “A trust embodies a relationship of belief, faith, and the ability to do something greater.”

One Day for Students had a number of action-packed hubs around campus. The colleges of Arts & Science, Medicine, Dentistry and Engineering all participated in One Day for Students with their individual initiatives (photo: Julie Schappert).

University Relations student ambassadors, a student group who advocate for leadership and philanthropy with students, alumni and staff, were also on-hand to reach out to students passing by, promoting the importance of the funds and contributing to One Day for Students.

Additionally, Alisha Esmail, owner of Road Coffee, handed out free coffee in the student hub in the hopes that students and staff would donate what they would normally spend on coffee. She noted, “I believe our generation wants to give back and make a difference, but I think sometimes we’re unsure of how. One Day for Students creates a platform for individuals to engage in philanthropy but also represents a bigger picture of how we should be living our lives.”

Home Ice a smart investment

Most of what Shannon Briske learned about life he learned from hockey, like the importance of teamwork, commitment and perseverance. Now a minor hockey coach, father of three and Senior Financial Advisor at Assante Wealth Management, he attributes much of his success to his experiences as a student athlete with the ‘Dogs’.

A founding member and past chair of the ‘Off the Leash Luncheon’, Shannon, pictured with his wife Jill, has been involved with the Huskies alumni group since graduating from the U of S with an honours degree in finance in 2000 (photo: Dave Stobbe).

“The relationships and core values that were instilled in me as a student athlete remain today,” he said. “It’s important to give back to the program and community that was the platform for building such a strong foundation for my success.”

That’s why Shannon and Jill Briske have generously donated $200,000 to the Home Ice Campaign – they are committed  to supporting a much-needed twin-ice facility for the Huskies and minor hockey players, providing athletes with the opportunities to develop as both players and people.

The Briskes are pleased that their contribution will help the community. Mr Briske said, “This facility will touch so many people in other sports and will be a venue that everyone can truly be proud of.”

Bringing hockey home

Paul Buczkowski understands what it means to have a busy young family in Saskatoon, especially when athletics are a central family focus. The Buczkowskis are a typical hockey-loving family—Paul and his wife first met on a bus on their way to a Midget AAA tournament, and all four of their children (ages 6-13) have a passion for the sport.

“Ever since I was little, I wanted to play in the NHL,” he says. “Watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night and going to the rink trying to duplicate what I saw on TV was what I did as a kid.”

Buczkowski family, left to right: Tyson, Brett, Karen, Carter, Paul and Madison.

A coach and parent, Buczkowski often sees first-hand the life skills that hockey provides children.

“There are many ups and downs in the sport and playing teaches kids to deal with difficult situations and learn to adapt to their surroundings. They meet new friends at the rink and these friendships are ones that last a lifetime.”

But finding time to enjoy the game isn’t always easy. On an average day, the family dedicates countless hours so their kids can enjoy the sport, travelling from Saskatoon to numerous rural locations in Saskatchewan strictly for practise. The lack of ice time in Saskatoon means that the family must endure a punishing schedule of early mornings and late nights on the highway.

The construction of Merlis Belsher Place will bring the game closer to home.

“Hard work beats talent” is a saying the Buczkowskis have both at home and on the ice. Tyson, pictured with trophy.

The modern, twin-pad ice facility will support families like the Buczkowskis with an additional 1,500 hours of ice time within the city limits, decreasing travel time and providing the community with more time to enjoy the game.

“This project will enable us to spend more time with family and friends and give the kids an opportunity to do what kids do best: play with friends and family. Friendships grow great communities and great communities are where people want to live,” Buczkowski says.

Report to the Community 2016


2016 was an exciting year at the University of Saskatchewan. From record-setting gifts from generous donors to significant national recognition of our research efforts, we have a lot to be proud of, and a lot to share with all of you.

The University of Saskatchewan and the communities it serves have always enjoyed a special relationship. From our students, faculty and staff to our donors, partners, alumni and neighbours, the passion for the university and the benefits it brings to the province and beyond is part of what I love about being the president of this great institution.

Please enjoy some of our stories of 2016. I hope you’ll stay connected with us to see the great things 2017 will bring.

Warm regards,

Peter Stoicheff

President, University of Saskatchewan




Making a donation before year’s end

To be eligible for a 2016 tax receipt, the University of Saskatchewan must receive your donation on or before Dec. 31, 2016.

David Stobbe /

Although the university will be closed between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2, 2017, there are three ways you can still make your donation this holiday season:

  1. Call us at (306) 966-5186 or 1-800-699-1907 (toll free) and leave a message. A member of our staff will call you back within 24 hours to confirm your donation details. Please call us if you wish to donate shares to the university before year-end.
  2. Give online with a credit card.
  3. Print out our donation form and mail it to University Relations. Please note that your envelope must be postmarked on or before December 31st to qualify for a tax-deductible receipt for 2016.

Thank you for your support. Happy holidays!

Growing the game

Merlis Belsher’s transformative gift of $12.25 million that launched the Home Ice Campaign is an inspiration not only to donors and community leaders, but also to current U of S students.

The Agricultural Students Association (ASA) followed the lead of Belsher and a number of other donors by making a gift to the campaign. The $3,400 donation was made using the profits from the association’s annual social event.

On Monday, Dec. 12 members of the ASA presented a cheque to Merlis Belsher and Home Ice Campaign chair Dave King.

Home Ice Campaign chair Dave King (far left) and lead donor Merlis Belsher (far right) presented with a donation to the Home Ice Campaign by members of the Agricultural Student Association, Bayley Blackwell and Jacqueline Toews

Home Ice Campaign chair Dave King (far left) and lead donor Merlis Belsher (far right) presented with a donation to the Home Ice Campaign by members of the Agricultural Student Association, Bayley Blackwell and Jacqueline Toews.

“It was a great honour to get to chat with Merlis and Dave,” said student Bayley Blackwell, ASA social director. “It is so exciting to have such a great cause to support that benefits the entire campus.”

The Home Ice Campaign is raising funds to build a brand new multi-sport complex at the U of S.

For more information on the Home Ice Campaign and to make a donation, visit

Grahams’ gift a game-changer for the U of S

Ron and Jane Graham know a good opportunity when they see one.

When they heard that the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) was proceeding on a new ice facility to replace the aging Rutherford Rink, they decided to get involved to fix a long-standing issue that they said also put the Huskie basketball teams at a disadvantage.

The basketball teams practice in the Physical Activity Complex (PAC), but are unable to use the facilities every December and April when the space is transformed into an exam room for finals. Ron said that reduction in practice time has a real impact on the athletes, who train 12 months a year.

“It’s a year-round commitment,” he said, noting that the exam scheduling also leads to other hurdles. “It’s difficult for the university to attract tournaments, because the demands on the PAC are significant.”

With many other Canadian universities offering more practice facilities for their athletes, the Grahams have now committed $4 million to the U of S to further develop the new ice facility—Merlis Belsher Place—into a multi-sport complex.

Their major gift will allow for the addition of two practice gymnasiums, dressing rooms and team rooms for Huskie basketball. Additionally, the new courts will be NBA length, “a full 94 feet—longer than collegiate courts in the city,” he said. The new space also gives the university flexibility to consider an athletic injury research area for athletes down the road, which is on the Grahams’ wish list for the basketball teams.

Huskie men’s basketball coach Barry Rawlyk said the Grahams have been instrumental to the teams, and that their commitment to the new facility will lead to improved player development.

“This is a true game changer,” he noted. “Access to a facility such as this will greatly enhance the student-athlete experience for every member of our team and will further enhance our ability to attract top-level talent to the University of Saskatchewan.”

David Stobbe /

Ron and Jane Graham made a gift of $4 million to support the construction of two basketball practice courts at Merlis Belsher Place (Photo: Dave Stobbe).

The university announced the donation to the new facility as part of a special recognition event for the Grahams on December 8, with university students and staff, Huskie athletes and Saskatoon community members in attendance.

The event also celebrated a major milestone—the Grahams have now donated close to $20 million in their lifetime to support the university and its students, which is the largest cumulative gift from alumni in university history. In recognition of that remarkable support, the university announced that the main court in the PAC will be named Ron and Jane Graham Centre Court.

“We are privileged to have the support of Ron and Jane Graham, who are shining examples of what it means to be passionate University of Saskatchewan alumni,” said U of S President Peter Stoicheff. “Their generosity is evident across campus, having contributed to numerous athletic initiatives, academic programs, and student scholarships. Simply put, they are outstanding supporters who have made a positive impact on our campus for our entire community.”

The Grahams have been proud Huskie supporters for decades because athletics played a positive role in their university experiences. When they studied at the U of S—Ron obtained his bachelor of engineering and Jane attained her bachelor of education, both in 1962—Ron was a quarterback for the Huskie football team while Jane was actively involved in intramurals, playing every sport offered.

In 2010, this passion for supporting athletics led to a new visitors’ facility for Huskie football.

“We had done a walkthrough of the old facility, and you could see the sky through the holes in the ceiling,” said Ron, who described the need to get involved with the re-design of the clubhouse.

The Grahams donated nearly $3 million towards the two-storey expansion of the modern Graham Huskie Clubhouse at Griffiths Stadium, providing Huskie Athletics with a much-needed training room, film room and meeting space that helps give the team an advantage.


An architectural drawing of the Ron and Jane Graham Gymnasium.

The Grahams have also made a major impact on the university’s basketball teams. After their trip to watch the women’s team compete at the national championship in 2015, Ron noted opposing teams had more fulsome coaching complements. After that competition, he and Jane decided to fund assistant coaches for the two Huskie basketball teams for five years.

The competition was a memorable one for Ron and Jane, and showed the Huskies just how dedicated the couple is to the teams. The Grahams flew from their home in La Quinta, Calif., and then in-between the competition’s two host cities—Toronto and Quebec City—throughout the competition weekend, so that they could see both the Huskie men’s and women’s teams compete.

“We had hotels in both cities because we didn’t know who would advance (to the medal round). At the end of it we were more tired than the players!” said Ron with a laugh.

When thinking back to their many donations to the U of S, the contribution the Grahams are most proud of is the establishment of the Ron and Jane Graham Centre for the Study of Communication in the College of Engineering in 2007, which transformed to a school in 2013 after the Grahams donated $3.27 million to enhance the centre. The Ron and Jane Graham School of Professional Development helps engineering, agriculture and bioresources, and kinesiology students develop professional communication and entrepreneurial skills so that they are better prepared to enter the job market and to become better citizens after graduation.


A conceptual design of Ron and Jane Graham Centre Court.

“That is the most memorable and long-lasting gift we’ve made,” said Ron, who comes from a family that includes three generations of U of S engineering alumni. Ron also noted that this gift in particular brought together the couple’s vocational interests.

“It seemed to fit with Jane’s education background and my engineering background, so we focused on giving there,” he said.

Not only have the Grahams made a positive impact on the U of S community and campus, they’ve also left a lasting impression on the parents of many Huskie athletes.

“We often hear from parents of students who have benefited while at sporting events—they even express their gratitude to our family members,” Ron said.

When asked what inspires them to give back to their alma mater, the Grahams spoke of supporting areas that are close to their hearts. They hope other alumni do the same, in their own way.

“We look at people to give back to where they are passionate,” Ron said. “We hope it’s at their university, as it sets the direction of their careers.”

Based on the turnout for the donation announcement event, the Grahams’ passion for supporting the university, its students and its athletes is appreciated by many across campus.

See more from the special announcement on Dec. 8.

Written by Jessica Elfar