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With $100-million — the second-largest endowment to Canadian academia in history — mining magnate Seymour Schulich is inaugurating what he hopes will be the Canadian equivalent to the Rhodes Scholarship.
“It’s about trying to create leaders,” said Mr. Schulich, 71. “If you call people leaders and give them 60 grand, some of them are going to turn into leaders.”
Dubbed the Schulich Leader Scholarships, when fully implemented by 2014 the award will grant $60,000 over four years to students enrolling in science, technology, engineering or mathematics programs.
A noted philanthropist, Mr. Schulich’s name already adorns schools of business, music, medicine and engineering. This time around, he felt it was time to put money into the sciences.
“Business gets enough support, medicine gets enough support, but I haven’t really done a straight science benefaction,” he said.
In a sense, the new scholarship closely mirrors Mr. Schulich’s own career path. He studied engineering and chemistry at McGill University before making his fortune in mining and early investments in the Canadian oil sands. “I think engineers make great CEOs,” said Mr. Schulich, who is the CEO of Nevada Capital Corp. “It’s not particularly about trying to create scientists at all.”
The award will work by a complex nomination process wherein each of Canada’s 1,300 high schools selects a single Schulich nominee. Of those, a selection committee will peg 75 students (60 Canadian, 15 Israeli) for the award.
“It’s sort of like the Academy Awards. If a student is a nominee, he may not get the big prize, but the admissions officers in the school will at least notice that the kid is on the ball,” he said.
Most importantly, “I’m not going to take the scholarship away from you,” said Mr. Schulich.
As a first- year student at McGill, Mr. Schulich received a grant from the university scholar program. The scholarship was stripped by second year when he failed to meet the award’s minimum GPA by 0.2%.
“It’s my Rosebud…. I never got over the fact they took the damn thing away from me,” he said.
The Schulich Leader Scholarships will be administered by Toronto’s United Jewish Appeal. The organization is not particularly known for its background in science and mathematics, but Mr. Schulich picked it more for its staying power.
“UJA has been around for close to 100 years, and he believes we’ll be around for another 100 years,” said David Goodman, acting director of the Schulich Leader Scholarships.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/14/mining-magnates-100m-gift-launches-canadian-rhodes/