The Thompson Rivers University School of Business and Economics now has a new name, thanks to the largest-ever individual donation made to the university.
A $10-million donation has been made by the four children of Bob Gaglardi with the support of Northland Properties — a company the man founded in 1963.
The donation will go toward helping to fund a new building and student programs within the renamed Bob Gaglardi School of Business and Economics.
The Gaglardi name rings out in Kamloops, including via Bob’s father, Phil, who served Kamloops as an MLA, including his stint as minister of highways, for 20 years, and later as mayor for two years.
Bob Gaglardi, alongside his children, built Northland Properties into a large enterprise. The company includes well-known brands such as the Sandman Hotel Group, Sutton Place Hotels, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Grouse Mountain ski hill, Moxies, Shark Club, Chop Steakhouse Bar and the Kamloops Blazers WHL team and Dallas Stars NHL team.
The donation is the second-largest sum recently given by the Gaglardis in Kamloops. In November 2021, the family gave $15 million to Royal Inland Hospital. When it opens this summer, the new patient care tower will bear the name of Phil and wife Jennie.
Bob Gaglardi’s daughter, Andrea, said the hospital donation made sense — with both of her grandparents spending a lot of time there.
“The university — it came about with us not initially looking to recognize my dad, but about how we could give back to Kamloops,” she said.
Andrea Gaglardi said the donation has been in the works for years, noting the family first approached the school looking to contribute to its building campaign, with the university later asking if the family would also lend its name.
“This is really a historic day for TRU,” university president Brett Fairbairn said. “The biggest gift in our history is transformative ... It means new opportunities for students, support to finish their education, better facilities. It really is amazing what this will do.”
Fairbairn said funds are being raised for a new business school building, but the money is not yet in place and the university does not have a timeline for its construction.
“We often can’t do it without help from a donor, so this is really the difference that may make the building possible,” he said.
The new facility will rise near the East Gate entrance to campus, by the intersection of Summit Drive and McGill Road.
Fairbairn said the naming of the building is not just symbolic.
“The Gaglardi family name and Bob Gaglardi’s personal story, I think, brings instant credibility,” Fairbairn said, noting the entrepreneur’s self-made success.
School of Business dean Mike Henry said Bob Gaglardi’s lending of his name, because of his reputation and integrity, will go far with other businesses not only associating with the school, but also in hiring graduates.
The dean also said there will be a focus on experiential learning, with an expanded finance lab and other types of hands-on learning.
“We’re looking for lots of interaction, not only throughout campus and our school, but a place where businesses from around the region and the Interior of British Columbia can come to get advice and hire students,” Henry said, describing the building as an education-business connection hub with street-facing businesses operating on the main floor.
The School of Business and Economics stands out at TRU in its demographics. While international students typically comprise about one-third of students in arts and science programs, the School of Business has usually taken on many more. This past fall, enrollment figures from the university show 77 per cent of students in that school are from outside Canada.
In its third quarter budget update, the university expressed an interest in diversifying that school to mitigate the risk of international students not being able to attend in the future, should the pandemic have further impacts or other issues arise, preventing students from coming to study.
“The opportunities provided by this funding will really help,” Fairbairn said when asked about the school’s new recruitment targets. “It means more funding for students, it means enriched programs and activities, it means better facilities and, I think, that’s going to help them with their recruitment goals.”
Prior to the Gaglardi’s gift, TRU received a $5-million donation from Sherman Jen in 2017, which at the time was the largest-ever single donation the university had received. Those funds went to scholarships and equipment in the university’s Nursing and Population Health Building, which opened in 2020.