Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

Philanthropist Pierre Lassonde donates $25 million to York

Philanthropist Pierre Lassonde donates $25 million to York

Yesterday was a very good day for future generations of Canadian engineers.

During a special event held at York University's Keele campus, President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri announced a $25-million dollar transformative donation from Pierre Lassonde, chairman of the Franco-Nevada Corporation, for an expanded School of Engineering.

 [stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A// img=x:/ embed=false share=false width=400 height=300 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false /]
Above: A video of the announcement of the $25-million gift to the University by Pierre Lassonde. As part of the event, the Computer Science & Engineering Building was renamed the Lassonde Building.

The announcement was made during a ceremony in which the Computer Science & Engineering Building, where it was held, was renamed the Lassonde Building in honour of the School of Engineering's new benefactor. The upbeat event featured the student-constructed Mars Rover unveiling a commemorative plaque showing the building's new name, and the cutting of a giant cake fashioned in the likeness of the Lassonde Building. As part of the celebration, Lassonde was given a leather bomber jacket emblazoned with York Engineering by fourth-year space engineering student Shailja Sahani.


Right: Pierre Lassonde shows off his new engineering jacket

“York University is extremely thankful to Pierre Lassonde for his very generous gift,” said Shoukri. “This transformative donation will allow us to create a truly unique engineering program that will redefine engineering for the 21st century.”

Based on its traditional strength in humanities, social sciences, business and law, the University is committed to ensuring that engineering students will be broadly educated to support future economic and social development.

“The most important natural resource of our country is not its oil or minerals or forests, but our young people,” said Lassonde. “It’s imperative that we give them all the education they need so that they can continue to make Canada one of the best places in the world to live. Through the collaboration of the new engineering program at York with one of the most successful business schools in the world, the Schulich School of Business, we know we can make a difference.”

 "Pierre's gift and vision will support a whole new way of thinking about engineering education. His transformational donation will lead to the creation of the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, with an ambition to graduate a new generation of entrepreneurial engineers with a social conscience," said Janusz Kozinski (left), dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering.

The generous donation from Lassonde, combined with funding from the Government of Ontario and the University, provides an investment enabling York to become one of the top global engineering schools based in Canada.

By embodying York’s core values of social responsibility, global citizenship and interdisciplinary education, the new school will provide a unique approach to engineering and entrepreneurship, establishing itself as a destination of choice for top engineering students.

Right: President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri 

“York has a rich history of educational innovation, and the broadening of the focus of the engineering school to include business and public policy is a welcome step forward,” said Glen Murray, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities. “Mr. Lassonde’s generous gift will accelerate the program and help transform it into a model for next-generation education in engineering.”

More about Pierre Lassonde

Lassonde has a BA from the University of Montreal (1967), a BSc electrical engineering from Polytechnique, Montreal (1971) and an MBA from the University of Utah (1973). He received his PEng Ontario designation in 1976 and his CFA, University of Virginia, 1984. He holds honorary doctorates in engineering from the Universities of Toronto, Montreal and Ryerson, and a doctor of business, University of Utah.  

In 1982, Lassonde co-founded Franco-Nevada Mining Corporation, the first publicly traded gold royalty company, with his partner and fellow York benefactor Seymour Schulich. Over the next 20 years, the company provided shareholders with a 36 per cent annualized rate of return. In February 2002, Franco-Nevada was acquired by Newmont Mining Corp., the world’s largest gold producer at the time. Lassonde was president of Newmont from 2002 to 2007 and vice-chairman in 2007. He served as chairman of the World Gold Council from 2005 to 2009.

In 2008, he led a group of investors and former executives in bringing back Franco-Nevada to the public market and became its chairman. The $1.2-billion IPO of Franco-Nevada was the largest mining company initial public offering ever done on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The success story continues today as the market capitalization of the company is now over $5 billion.

Left: Celebrating a sweet moment in York's history

Lassonde’s philanthropic activities have had a significant impact on education and the arts. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Centre at the University of Utah was ranked number one in the US in 2010 for its creation of a public company from the University research labs. Other universities that have benefited from Lassonde’s philanthropy include Polytechnique Montréal, and the universities of Toronto, Western Ontario, Ryerson and York. 

He  has been chairman of the Quebec National Art Museum since 2005 and has led a $100-million campaign to build a new wing to double the museum exhibition surface. He was made a companion of the Order of Canada in 2002 and an officer of the Order of Quebec in 2008.   

Lassonde is also the author of The Gold Book: The Complete Investment Guide to Precious Metals.

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.