Impact of Giving

A History of Philanthropy at the University of New Brunswick

Author: Development and Donor Relations

Posted on Jun 26, 2023

Category: Donor Stories , Scholarships and Bursaries , Creating Opportunities for Students , News and Events

Pictured above: Sir George E. Foster (BA 1868, LLD 1894) made a proposal in 1923: the establishment of a $500,000 endowment fund, supported by donations from alumni and other friends of the university. He announced that he himself would guarantee $50,000 in contributions.

The story of philanthropy at UNB spans the last century and beyond. From our first informal campaign, with a goal of half a million dollars, to the record-breaking $125 million It Begins Here campaign in the 2010s, UNB’s donors and friends have spent over a hundred years coming together to support their university and its students. 
Philanthropy at UNB goes well beyond the large donations made by such estimable figures as Lord Beaverbrook, who was responsible for several buildings and many awards in the first half of the twentieth century. Just as important to UNB’s story are the many gifts of all sizes made by alumni and friends who have loved and been changed by this university.
The first scholarship donor at UNB was Mrs. Elizabeth Wilmot, who in 1883 established the first donor-supported award in honour of her late husband, Lemuel Wilmot. It was a fitting tribute: in addition to being the first New Brunswicker to serve as the province’s Lieutenant-Governor, Wilmot had also authored the bill that led to the 1859 transformation of King’s College to the University of New Brunswick.
Other alumni and friends of the university stepped forward with donations in the years that followed, with faculty members and the university president also regularly giving of their own salaries to assist students in need.
1923 saw the first concerted effort to raise funds in support of UNB. That was the year of the first alumni reunion, where more than 200 alumni gathered to celebrate their alma mater. At the reunion dinner during that week of celebration, esteemed politician Sir George E. Foster (BA 1868, LLD 1894) made a proposal: the establishment of a $500,000 endowment fund, supported by donations from alumni and other friends of the university. He announced that he himself would guarantee $50,000 in contributions.
This first fundraising campaign became known as the Half-Million Dollar Endowment and aimed to build the university’s endowment fund to $500,000 by 1945. Although the campaign fell well short of its goal – finishing at around half of its stated goal – it was still a great success for the university. The fund, built largely through the volunteer efforts of dedicated alumni, began funding awards in 1950 and still exists today, supporting UNB’s general undergraduate awards program.
Over the following decades, fundraising slowly became more structured, with the formation first of the Office of Development, which later became the Office of Development and Public Relations and finally, as it remains today, the Office of Development and Donor Relations (DDR).
As the team coordinating donor relations has grown, so too has the scope and scale of the university’s fundraising. A $10 million campaign in the 1980s, for instance, was ambitious for the time, but it was soon outpaced by the $43 million+ Venture Campaign, which ran from 1994-1996 and exceeded its initial $30 million fundraising goal by more than 40 per cent!
Generosity blossomed in the wake of the Venture Campaign; annual donations to the university nearly doubled in the five years following the campaign versus the five years before it had begun. The UNB community had shown itself to be committed to supporting the success of its future students, which remains true of our community to this day.
The Forging Our Futures campaign ran from 2003-2006 with a goal of $80 million. This goal was again far exceeded – with a final tally of $107 million – thanks to the hard work of university staff, campaign volunteers, and, most importantly, thanks to the forward-thinking generosity of our donors.
UNB’s most recent fundraising campaign, It Begins Here, culminated in record-breaking investment in our students, our researchers, and the province of New Brunswick at large. The initial goal of $110 million was smashed with a final total of $125 million in donations from over 10,000 alumni, as well as students, faculty, staff, and corporate and community partners.
Today, UNB awards more than $10 million in scholarships every year; half of all students entering UNB from high school are granted a UNB scholarship. Gifts of all sizes from our university’s alumni and friends make a significant difference in the lives of our students and the ability of UNB to provide world-class educational opportunities.
UNB’s long and proud history of philanthropy is the foundation for a future of student success. Be a a part of it.