Impact of Giving

UNB breaks ground on Engineering Commons thanks to $1.1 million alumni gift

Author: Development and Donor Relations

Posted on Jan 13, 2023

Category: News and Events

FREDERICTON - It was raining heavily on Nov. 25, but University of New Brunswick Chancellor Allison McCain and President and Vice-Chancellor Paul J. Mazerolle were smiling as they hefted their shovels for a ceremonial groundbreaking. Standing in the lobby of Head Hall, flanked by artist’s renderings of what the renovated structure will look like, UNB’s senior leaders formally launched the construction of the university’s new Engineering Commons.

UNB engineering alumnus Bill Cooper (BScCE'62, pictured below) recently made a $1.1 million cornerstone gift that is critical to the project.

UNB engineering alumnus Bill Cooper (BScCE'62).

“Bill Cooper’s donation is the latest in a series of gifts to this project from prominent engineering alumni,” said McCain, who graduated from UNB’s engineering program in 1972 and who is himself a supporter of the Engineering Commons. “It’s heartening to see so many of my fellow engineering graduates investing in the future of our faculty.”

“UNB was the first university in Canada to offer lectures in engineering,” said Mazerolle. “For more than 150 years, UNB alumni have played instrumental roles in the transformation of Canadian society through the creation of new technology and jobs, community leadership and philanthropy. Today, UNB faculty members and graduates are acknowledged leaders in advanced manufacturing, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, nuclear energy, off-site construction, smart grid development and transportation infrastructure. They are helping UNB lead Canada’s entrepreneurial revolution.“Bill Cooper is a distinguished example of all that one can achieve with a UNB education in engineering,” said Mazerolle. “With this gift, he is passing the torch of innovation and leadership to the next generation and challenging other alumni to help our university remain at the forefront of engineering education.”

William Press Cooper (Bill) is the former CEO of Cooper Construction, a third-generation family-owned Canadian construction and real estate development company in Oakville, Ontario. He came to UNB’s civil engineering program based on a recommendation from a neighbour whose son had attended UNB.

Bill graduated in 1962 and went straight to work at the family company, first as a project engineer then working his way up to president and chief executive officer in 1978. Under his leadership, the company has become an industry pioneer in design/build and, expanded to commercial and industrial real estate development as well as facilities management.

Bill has been a generous donor to UNB for well over 40 years. In addition to gifts to the President’s Fund and various campaign projects, including buildings, he established the prestigious William P. Cooper Scholarship, which is awarded each year to three engineering students at UNB. He was honoured with the Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award at UNB’s 2020 Engineering Awards Dinner.

“UNB gave me the skills and mindset I needed to keep our family company operating at the leading edge of construction engineering,” said Cooper. “I’ve had the privilege of working with universities on a number of buildings, and I have seen the transformational impact that a purpose-built structure can have on education and innovation.

“When I learned of this project I was struck by the significance and wanted to be part of it. I’d like to challenge other engineering alumni who have enjoyed successful careers because of our time at UNB to join me in supporting construction of the Engineering Commons,” said Cooper.

To UNB’s new dean of engineering, Dr. Joshua Leon, the Cooper gift and groundbreaking are signs that years of planning and alumni engagement by the faculty are coming to fruition.

“I am very pleased to see the faculty’s vision for engineering beginning to take shape in concrete form. The Engineering Commons will be a vibrant space that is attractive to students and faculty researchers,” said Leon. “By creating new space that encourages people to mingle and collaborate, the gifts made by Bill Cooper and other engineering alumni are contributing to the long-term growth of our faculty, New Brunswick’s culture of innovation and the Canadian economy."

Alumni and friends have contributed more than $5 million to the Engineering Commons. UNB is working with construction manager EllisDon and Murdock & Boyd Architects to open the new Commons at the end of 2023. To support the Engineering Commons or to learn more, please contact Craig Poole at or 506-452-6045.