Stephen Smith, who co-founded First National Financial in 1998, will donate $50 million to Queen’s School of Business. The donation will fund new chairs and professorships, and will finance several student scholarships.
“The school of business has the energy and strategy to advance its international influence and recognition, which will be good for students, the university and for Canada,” said Smith, who earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Queen’s in 1972, as well as a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. “The university provided me with a transformative education that served as a foundation for all of my endeavours.”
Among those endeavours are the founding of First National, the largest non-bank lender of residential and commercial mortgages in Canada, for which he still serves as chairman and CEO. Smith also acts as chairman of Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance, the third-largest mortgage insurance company in Canada, and is the largest shareholder in alternative lender Equitable
“This extraordinary gift will enable the school to continue to transform business education and further its leadership position both nationally and internationally,” said David Saunders, Dean of the newly-minted Stephen J. R. Smith School of Business. “It will allow the school to bring together the best minds from around the world to deliver innovative learning experiences and pursue leading business research.”
Those learning experiences will also remain at an arm’s length from Smith, who ensured the school would maintain its academic freedom.
“I am a big believer in empowering people and I believe in academic independence,” he told the Globe and Mail.
“I wanted to do something in education and probably at Queen’s, and then I was looking at where a transformational gift could be made,” he added. “Notwithstanding my background in engineering and economics, I have been invested in the business community for most of my life.”