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 home-ice.ca.

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 / Stobbephoto.ca

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.

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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.

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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

In from the cold: new Inuit art collection fires imagination in the university library

A new art collection, donated to the university’s library, has a cold and snowy beginning. Norman Zepp (BA ’76) and his wife Judith Varga (BA ’76) have travelled the northern-most part of Canada to research the art created by the Inuit people and have cultivated a nationally-recognized collection over the course of nearly 50 years.

The donation includes over 200 sculptures, dozens of prints and drawings, five wall hangings, a vast set of photographs and original interviews with the Inuit artists—predominantly from the Keewatin region of Nunavut.

“This would be a remarkable collection even if the art weren’t included,” noted Tim Hutchinson, university archivist. “The interviews and archival material provide unique insight into the lives of Canada’s northern artists—indeed it is likely the only in-depth documentation available about many of the artists. This is an invaluable addition to our research collections focusing on the North.”

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Judith Varga (BA’76) and her husband Norman Zepp (BA ’76) have donated their collection of Inuit art to the University Library.

Zepp, an independent art curator and expert in Inuit art, started collecting when he first attended the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) as an art history student, in 1969. Peter Millard, an English professor who was influential in the arts community, introduced him to the works of the Inuit people, and Zepp was hooked.

“I’ve always had an instinct for art,” said Zepp. “I wasn’t aware of this style before then, and I immediately went to the Mendel (art gallery) and bought my first piece.”

Thus began a lifetime studying and working with the Inuit people and their creations. Zepp specialized in Inuit art through his masters of Canadian studies, from the University of Ottawa. While a curator at the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina he organized several exhibitions, showcasing the northern creations he had grown so fond of. He also established the Inuit art department for the Art Gallery of Ontario and helped found the Inuit Art Museum in Toronto in 1985.

Zepp’s research trips to Nunavut, at times accompanied by Varga, helped him develop relationships with the artists and learn about the origins of their artwork. “They welcomed us into their homes, so we got to know them,” said Zepp, who noted how worthwhile it was to observe the blending of traditional and contemporary culture, which informed their art.

For instance, some of the most iconic pieces in the collection are the detailed carvings of caribou. Zepp said the Inuit people of the Keewatin region relied heavily on the animal for their existence—for food, clothing, shelter and tools— and the reverence for the animal is reflected in the art. “There are 40 different renderings of the caribou by some of the north’s finest artists,” said Zepp. “It’s such a noble creature and a magnificent subject matter.”

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The historical impact of the collection has not gone unnoticed. This past July the university received word that the Canadian Cultural Property Review Board certified the collection as having ‘outstanding significance and national importance’.

Not only has Zepp brought his lifetime of work to live at the University of Saskatchewan, he has also shared his expertise with the university, by curating other notable Inuit art donations. In 2015 he helped the University Art Collection showcase a collection of Inuit art sculptures donated to the Edwards School of Business by alumnus Sam Schwartz. He also curated the Henry and Cheryl Kloppenburg Collection of Inuit Sculpture which was gifted to the College of Agriculture and Bioresources in 2011.

President Peter Stoicheff noted how important this gift is to the university’s Inuit art collection. “Although we’ve been collecting Indigenous art for decades, in the last few years our collection of Inuit art has expanded impressively in scope,” he said. “Thanks to this donation, we now have a comprehensive overview of this important aspect of Canadian art. Visual art is so important to our campus community, and I’m excited to see how students and researchers use this collection in their work.”

Zepp said it is fulfilling to bring his and Judith’s personal collection to help students at their alma mater. The idea was first proposed to Zepp and Varga by University Archives and Special Collections, and the couple agreed.

“I’m flattered they approached me. It’s rewarding to present the artwork on campus,” said Zepp. “The U of S has always treated Inuit art collections seriously, and I am impressed with how it’s been displayed. I appreciate that the university can put most of its art collection in front of its community.”

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Zepp is hopeful that having the artwork in common library spaces will be encouraging to students, and will provide additional opportunities to visiting community members to absorb the cultural meanings behind the artwork.

Charlene Sorensen, interim dean, agreed. “With the published collections of university libraries being increasingly based on electronic resources, it is rare and unique collections like this one that set us apart,” she noted. “We are so thankful to Norman and Judith for entrusting the University Library with this collection. I look forward to a time when we will be able to have much of the art on permanent display, as an inspiration for students and other visitors to University Archives & Special Collections.”

The Norman Zepp-Judith Varga Collection exhibit is in the Link area of Murray Library until the end of January 2017, and will be available for students and researchers to use in their work through University Archives and Special Collections.

Learn more about the collection in the University Archives and Special Collections in this special video, narrated by Norman Zepp.

Written by Jessica Elfar

National Philanthropy Day: An Honoured Supporter

As part of National Philanthropy Day celebrations, the Saskatoon chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals awarded Jacqui Shumiatcher for her decades of generosity to the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and its students. At today’s National Philanthropy Day luncheon, Jacqui was recognized with an Honoured Supporter Award—one of 23 awards presented by the association to individuals, families and organizations who have made a positive difference in our community.

Jacqui has always followed her heart with her charitable initiatives, and her support of the U of S began the same way.

Many years ago, Jacqui’s beloved pet poodle—Mr. Pickwick—escaped, ran out onto a busy street and was hit by a vehicle. After rushing the wounded pup to a clinic in Regina with a broken leg, she was referred to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) as she was told the college had better resources to treat him. Before long, Mr. Pickwick was properly healed and back at home with Jacqui. “I am forever grateful for what they did for him,” Jacqui said of the WCVM. “I was very impressed at how the students took care of not only Mr. Pickwick, but the horses and all the other animals.”

Since then, Jacqui has been supporting the Companion Animal Health Fund, which supports pet health research studies and contributes to specialized training of graduate students. The fund also purchases vital equipment that enhances animal health care and veterinary training at the WCVM.

Jacqui and her late husband, Morris, have also been champions for the College of Law. The Shumiatchers established the Morris and Jacqui Shumiatcher Scholarship in Law, which supports students who are entering the program.

David Stobbe / stobbephoto.ca

Jacqui (right) presenting Jacob Tolton-Morley (left) with the Morris and Jacqui Shumiatcher Scholarship in Law at September’s College of Law welcoming ceremony. (Photo:David Stobbe / stobbephoto.ca)

Morris was one of Canada’s most successful lawyers; His most notable achievement was drafting the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, which subsequently served as the model for Canada’s Bill of Rights.

Jacqui and Morris were very impressed with the U of S law grads they encountered and wanted to make sure that other students throughout the province could benefit from the program.

“We knew several young people who wanted to study law, but didn’t have the means,” said Jacqui. “By creating this scholarship, we wanted to help out aspiring lawyers and make sure they had an opportunity to pursue their interest.”

One of the most recent recipients of the scholarship is Jacob Tolton-Morley, who says he will always be grateful for the generous contribution. “I was honoured to receive this award from one of Saskatchewan’s most distinguished philanthropists,” said Tolton-Morley. “It has allowed me to focus more of my time on academics and get the most out of my experience at the U of S.”

In addition to supporting scholarships for the WCVM and the College of Law, Jacqui has been a long-time member of the Greystone Circle, a U of S society that honours donors who have made pledged estate gifts to the university and its students.

—Jacqui Shumiatcher (left) with vice president of university relations, Debra Pozega Osburn (right), at the 16th annual AFP National Philanthropy Day luncheon (photo: Dave Stobbe).

—Jacqui Shumiatcher (left) with vice president of university relations, Debra Pozega Osburn (right), at the 16th annual AFP National Philanthropy Day luncheon (photo: Dave Stobbe).

Previously receiving such honours as the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and Regina’s Citizen of the Year in 2004, Jacqui is delighted and humbled that the Honoured Supporter Award celebrates her deep commitment to the U of S. “It’s a surprise to get recognized because, to me, giving back feels natural and feels like what I should be doing. But I’m thrilled!”

For National Philanthropy Day, Jacqui encourages everyone to find their passionate causes and find ways to support them. “I appreciate anyone who gives back,” she said. “When you donate to worthy causes and you see the results, it gives you an amazing feeling knowing you can help somebody. It doesn’t matter how much you can give because a little bit to some people can be a lot.”

Written by Sean Conroy

Home Ice Campaign has the Wright stuff

A long-time supporter of the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and Huskie Athletics has made a major contribution to the fundraising campaign to build a new twin-ice facility on campus.

At today’s Huskie Off the Leash Luncheon, the U of S announced that Wright Construction and the Wright family have contributed a $1-million gift in support of the Home Ice Campaign. The campaign seeks to raise $7-million to complete funding to build Merlis Belsher Place.

Lorne Wright (BComm’81), a U of S commerce graduate and the president of Wright Construction Western Inc., said his business and his family are both proud to help out with the project.

“I’ve always had a fondness for the Huskies—it dates back to my time at university,” said Wright, who has been a strong supporter of scholarship programs for Huskie athletes. “It became apparent that this is a very important facility to our community and to our university and we wanted to make a commitment to it.”

Peter Stoicheff noted that the university is also pleased to partner with Wright Construction to build the new facility. He said the Wright family has been working to improve campus for decades. “Wright Construction and the University of Saskatchewan have a long association going back to when Lorne’s grandfather—Sam Wright—built the first buildings on our campus more than 100 years ago. Since then, Wright Construction has been seen regularly on our campus. We are so pleased that Wright Construction and the Wright family are committed to improving our facilities, for student athletes and our community, with this generous donation.”

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President of Wright Construction, Lorne Wright (middle, fifth from left next to hockey legend Lanny McDonald) with supporters of the Off the Leash Luncheon. Wright Construction and the Wright family announced a donation of $1-million to the Home Ice Campaign at the event.

Wright Construction and the Wright family—wife Lynne and siblings Jack, Don and Nancy—have been donating to the university and to Huskie Athletics since 2004.  They have supported the Huskies Off the Leash Luncheon from its beginnings in 2009 as its title sponsor, because it funds scholarships for Huskie hockey players. The Wrights have also established numerous scholarship awards over the years, to support Huskie hockey and basketball athletes.

The donation from Wright Construction and Wright family will provide a significant boost to the campaign to raise funds for the $41-million complex. It will replace the aging Rutherford Rink, which was built in 1929.

“Although it’s been heroic, Rutherford is no longer appropriate for a university of our calibre, as a public facility. It needs to be replaced for the enjoyment of the students and the public as well,” Wright said. He noted his excitement that the university will be reserving a significant number of hours for the use of community hockey programming. “What I thought really took the project up a notch was the plan to build a second rink and bring the community in. The agreement with the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association is so important, as their programs continue to grow.”

Written by James Shewaga

Gift changed everything for animal sciences student

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Olivia Carolan has dreamt about becoming a veterinarian since an early age. She was raised on a farm in south-west England, surrounded by animals from her very first steps: cats, dogs, and her first love—horses. “I grew up with horses, just like my mom and her parents did,” she said.

Her interest in animals started early, learning to ride horses and care for their injuries. However, it was a personal and heartbreaking experience that settled her decision to pursue an education in veterinary medicine.

“It was putting my horse down—Denahli—who was only eight years old. He had cancerous lumps on his jaw, which is a melanoma tumor common among grey horses,” she explained. “He was my first horse and the one I had the strongest connection with. It was like losing a part of me…he was my best friend.” She added, “That solidified the thought of becoming a veterinarian because I couldn’t do anything to help him with the pain.”

Olivia set her sights on the University of Saskatchewan. It had everything she desired: a dedicated animal bioscience program and a veterinary medicine college, that together, focus on a range of animals, from farm animals to domestic pets.

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Olivia Carolan received financial support to enter the College of Agriculture and Bioresources’ Animal Biosciences program when she was awarded the Peter Lewochko Bursary (Photo: David Stobbe / stobbephoto.ca).

Although she knew the U of S was the right place for her, she was unsure it was possible due to financial constraints. She elaborated, “I was thrilled upon my acceptance to the U of S but was burdened by the cost. I knew I would not be able to attend, and decided to go to a local university that was more affordable. But I still felt a nagging sense of disappointment that I could not attend the U of S.”

It was a U of S donor that changed everything for Olivia. She received much-needed financial support to enter the College of Agriculture and Bioresources’ Animal Bioscience program when she was awarded the Peter Lewochko Bursary, funded through a bequest gift.

She has fond memories of the moment her family received the news. Olivia explained, “My mom phoned me as I had received a package from the U of S. She opened it up right away and immediately started crying. She said, ‘Oh Olivia— they have given you a bursary for all of your tuition and books! You can go to the school you really want to go to!’” Olivia said she was thrilled.

Now in the third year of her undergraduate program, Olivia hopes to be accepted in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in the next two years. Her ultimate career goal is to assist pet owners in making health and nutrition decisions and reduce animal suffering.

“Without receiving this award, I would not be where I am today,” revealed Olivia. “It gives me immense joy that I can be here today and set my sights and aspirations even higher.”

If you would like to support students like Olivia through a gift in your Will, please contact:

Bev Cooper

Director of Gift Planning

Phone: (306) 966-2416

E-mail: bev.cooper@usask.ca

Written by Jessica Elfar

Astronomical Gift

The donation of a unique telescope from a family of U of S alumni will open up new worlds for the College of Arts & Science’s Department of Physics & Engineering Physics.

At a reception on Friday Oct. 28, the department celebrated the Tarasoff 24-inch telescope donated by Karen Larson (BSHEc’74) and her family in memory of her husband Harry Tarasoff (BA’68, LLB’71).

The instrument is likely the largest telescope in Saskatchewan, said astronomer Richard Huziak (BusAdm’92).

The family of the telescope's builder Harry Tarasoff, who donated the instrument in his memory. Left to right: Nissa Baran, Gavril Tarasoff (with daughter Kalyna Tarasoff), Elia Tarasoff, Karen Larson.

The family of the telescope’s builder Harry Tarasoff, who donated the instrument in his memory. Left to right: Nissa Baran, Gavril Tarasoff (with daughter Kalyna Tarasoff), Elia Tarasoff, Karen Larson.

The story of the instrument’s creation is just as unique as the telescope itself. Tarasoff, a Saskatoon business owner with a passion for building and inventing, constructed it in his shop with help from his sons Gavril (BSc’04) and Elia (BSc’07) and installed it in his backyard. After Tarasoff passed away in 2008, his family donated the telescope to the Department of Physics & Engineering Physics, where he completed his first degree.

The instrument is much larger and more powerful than any optical telescope currently in the department’s possession, said senior departmental assistant Yannis Pahatouroglou, and has excellent potential for expanding the university’s research and teaching activities in astronomy. Future undergraduate astronomy students will make use of the telescope in their classes.

“We are so happy that Harry Tarasoff’s love of discovery and invention will benefit students for many years to come,” said College of Arts & Science Interim Dean Peta Bonham-Smith at the event.

The telescope is currently being prepared for installation on the roof of the Physics Building in mid-2017.

Written by Chris Putnam

Rychjohns and Van Normans donate $1 million to the Home Ice Campaign

Lawrence (BEd’70, PGD’73) and Patricia Rychjohn (BSc’69, BEd’70) and Ian and Alice Van Norman have a proud history of investing in our community. From shopping centres to real estate, the joint-owners of College Hotels LP have been a driving force in delivering essential services and amenities to the community.

At last week’s ground-breaking ceremony for a new hotel development at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), the Rychjohns and Van Normans made a surprise announcement that they are donating $1 million to the Home Ice Campaign. The campaign is an effort to fund a two-storey, twin-pad ice facility for Huskie men’s and women’s hockey, campus rec leagues, and minor hockey.

“The U of S has entrusted us to do a hotel development on the College Quarter lands,” said Lawrence Rychjohn. “This donation is our way of showing that we are honored to have been given this opportunity, and that we are committed to building a better experience for the students, athletes, and the city.”

“We are very lucky to have such generous supporters of the U of S,” said U of S President Peter Stoicheff. “I am deeply grateful to Lawrence and Patricia Rychjohn, and Alice and Ian Van Norman, for their contributions not only to this hotel development, but also for their gift for our new ice-facility.”

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Ian and Alice Van Norman (left) and Lawrence and Patricia Rychjohn (right) donating $1 million to the Home Ice Campaign at the hotel development ground-breaking event (photo: Dave Stobbe).

The announcement of this donation from the Rychjohns and Van Normans came one day after the official launch of the Home Ice Campaign highlighted by a donation of $12.25 million from law and commerce grad Merlis Belsher (BComm’57, LLB’63).

In addition to the 50-50 partnership for College Hotels LP, the Rychjohns and Van Normans have a history of developing and owning commercial and residential properties together, dating back to 1981. Their most notable venture involved was when they teamed to jointly build for the construction of Circle Park Mall (now one half of “The Centre”).

The Rychjohns have strong connections to the U of S, which made giving to the Home Ice Campaign natural. “Lawrence and I both received degrees from the U of S, and all three of our children attended the U of S,” said Patricia. “Our education is one cornerstone of who, and where, we are as a family today.”

The Van Normans are renowned for their generosity, not just in Saskatoon, but also throughout the world. Ian and Alice have done mission work in Haiti to support the Claire Heureuse Hospital and in Burundi for a clinic that bears their name.

“Saskatoon has been good to us,” said Ian. “We are blessed; and we are happy to do something that, in addition to benefiting the university, will also benefit the entire community.”

Go to the Home Ice Campaign site for more information and to donate.

Alumnus’ $12.25M gift will help give new home to the Huskies and community hockey

History was made on Oct. 13, when University of Saskatchewan (U of S) commerce and law graduate Merlis Belsher contributed $12.25 million to help fund a new ice facility to replace Rutherford Rink. Belsher’s gift is the largest donation from an alumnus and individual in the university’s history.

Community members, Huskie athletes, university representatives and hockey aficionados gathered in Rutherford Rink for the donation announcement. The special occasion also marked the public launch of the Home Ice Campaign, in which the university, minor league hockey and community volunteers, will ask the public to raise the remaining $7 million to fund the new facility. The fundraising campaign is led by alumnus and hockey legend Dave King.

Belsher explained his primary intention for his lead gift to the campaign. “I made this donation because of my gratitude for the University of Saskatchewan—it provided me with confidence and education in two professions. That was my doorway to a satisfying career in the manufacturing industry.”

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Merlis Belsher is contributing $12.25 million to help fund a new twin-ice facility on campus (photo: Dave Stobbe).

The accomplished accountant, lawyer, entrepreneur and philanthropist said his success started when he first came to the University of Saskatchewan. He graduated with a bachelor of commerce in 1957, and was admitted to the Saskatchewan Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1960. He returned to the U of S to pursue a law degree, graduating in 1963, and was admitted to the Law Society of Saskatchewan the following year. A businessman by nature, he then purchased a concrete products manufacturing business in Saskatoon. Through acquisitions and expansion, he grew the business to be a leader in Western Canada, eventually selling it in 2008 to Oldcastle, an international firm.

Finding success in not one, but multiple professions took dedication and a strong work ethic. For Belsher, it also required a community of support. When he was just 15 years old both of his parents died tragically in a blizzard near their homestead. As a result, Belsher found himself alone at an early age.

It was thanks to a caring group of community members, and two older siblings, that he was guided to his new home at Luther College in Regina, where he finished his high school education and his interest in pursuing a university education deepened.

Belsher reminisced about the many mentors and teachers who encouraged his educational pursuits, but it was his mother, an elementary school teacher, to whom he gives the most credit. She instilled in him the importance of education and hard work from an early age; now he’s reaped the rewards of those values.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my life,” he explained. “If I had one wish, it would be that my mother could see how much education has helped me.”

Education has since become a major focus in Belsher’s philanthropic and volunteer efforts. He’s served the University of Saskatchewan as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council in both the College of Law and the College of Commerce (now Edwards School of Business), and he’s been donating to the university for decades. One notable donation was his establishment of the Merlis Belsher Access to Justice Fund in the College of Law in 2014, to support clinical learning opportunities for students through Community Legal Services for Saskatoon Inner City.

Although this donation is sports-specific—supporting all Huskies teams, campus recreation participants and minor league hockey players—he insisted it will have an equivalent impact on education.

“Sports are inextricably interwoven with education,” he said. “Sports keep young kids off the streets, and get them involved in community.”

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An avid sports fan, and former athlete and hockey coach, Belsher can relate to the importance of athletics in youth life. That’s why $250,000 of his donation is a matching commitment, to involve children and community members in the new ice facility. He has called upon Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association to fundraise for the new facility as well, and they have taken up the challenge.

Belsher’s enthusiasm for giving back to support the university and the community is infectious. He’s most excited that his donation will help increase the amount of ice time available for both the Huskies and minor hockey league players. The university has an agreement with Saskatoon Minor Hockey to reserve a significant number of hours for the use of community hockey programming.

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An architectural rendering of Merlis Belsher Place.

Although the new ice facility will be named after him—Merlis Belsher Place—Belsher remains humble, and stated that he did not make the contribution for the notoriety. He made it to help university students, first and foremost.

“This is about the university, not me,” he said. “If you see a good cause, you get fulfilled by getting involved.”

Check out more photos from this special announcement at Rutherford Rink.

For more information about the Home Ice Campaign, or to make a donation, please visit home-ice.ca.

 Jessica Elfar is a development communications specialist in University Relations.

Hughes’ gift enhances student training and animal care

Bev Hughes’ vision for a customized classroom for Western College of Veterinary (WCVM) students has become a reality.

Workers recently completed construction on the new BJ Hughes Centre for Clinical Learning at the veterinary college. This customized classroom was made possible by a major donation from Bev Hughes, who saw a need for the facility when she toured the human medicine-focused Clinical Learning Resource Centre in the University of Saskatchewan’s Health Sciences building.

“It is advanced learning. I think any advanced learning is good. More importantly, it is 21st century learning and 21st century technology. I want our vet college in Saskatoon to be the most progressive in North America,” says Hughes, who along with the BJ Hughes Foundation, contributed $340,000 toward the centre that cost nearly $500,000 to build and equip.

Bev Hughes

Bev Hughes announced a donation of $250,000, in addition to a $340,000 gift to help establish the BJ Hughes Centre for Clinical Learning at the WCVM (submitted photo).

During the official opening of the centre on Sept. 22, Hughes announced an additional $250,000 donation, which will be used to ensure sustainability of the clinical learning centre.

Hughes, who has supported the college for more than 10 years through a scholarship, says her dedication stems from her passion for animals and her love for the WCVM and the work done at the college.

The new classroom will give students a chance to practise clinical techniques and hone their skills in a safe learning environment. The lab’s flexible learning space will offer the college’s faculty the opportunity to teach various levels of simulation – from running through client scenarios with actors to practising surgical techniques on computerized models.

While planning for the centre began more than five years ago, Hughes’ donation moved things forward in the past 18 months.

Read more on Bev Hughes’ special contribution to make the BJ Hughes Centre for Clinical Learning possible.

Written by Jeanette Neufeld