$2.5 million gift for study of Canadian history at Mac

Call it a case of history repeating itself — or, more accurately, a fan of the study of history repeating something he did five years ago.

On Tuesday, philanthropist Red Wilson will officially sign over a second $2.5-million donation for the study and promotion of Canadian history at McMaster University.

The gift from the Wilson Foundation, along with $1.5 million from the university, will keep the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History going for the next five years — just like a similar gift he made five years ago to get the project off the ground.

Wilson — a former McMaster chancellor, a 1962 McMaster honours bachelor of arts graduate and recipient of an honorary doctorate from the university — says a liberal education “helps prepare young men and women for leadership.

“You can’t make good decisions unless you understand the context of things,” he said. “A broad education is important. You may have a great medical student, but it is also important that the aspiring doctor know something about history and psychology and other areas of liberal arts.”

In addition to his donations to the institute, Wilson previously pledged $10 million toward Wilson Hall, which is under construction at McMaster. The institute will operate out of the hall.

Wilson has worked as the former Ontario deputy minister of industry and tourism. He has also been the president and CEO of Redpath Industries; vice-chairman of the Bank of Nova Scotia; president and CEO and chairman of BCE Inc. and chair of Nortel Networks.

“Red’s generosity and his advocacy for the importance of the liberal arts have invigorated not just our department of history, but our entire faculty of humanities,” McMaster president Patrick Deane said in a statement.

Wilson says he has been impressed with Professor Viv Nelles’ leadership of the institute, which is the main reason he decided to repeat his donation. Nelles authored the book “The Little History of Canada.”

Each year, the institute brings in several junior faculty members to teach and conduct research. The institute offers grants for Canadian history books, hosts symposiums and gives out scholarships, among other things.

McMaster’s dean of humanities, Ken Cruikshank, says a key component of the institute is to teach Canadian history in “a new and exciting way” by focusing on Canada in a global context.

Check out the full article at the Hamilton Spectator.

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