March 14, 2019 7:25 pm

Concordia University’s fine arts faculty receives historic $5.6-million gift

The donation from the Peter N. Thompson family trust will help emerging artists and university students.

Global News
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Concordia University is the lucky recipient of the largest gift ever to be donated in Quebec for a post-secondary fine arts program.

The historic $5.6-million donation, which was announced on Thursday, will help fund field school awards and scholarships for graduate students. It will also be used for an innovation fund in the fine arts faculty.

“This is an extraordinary gift,” said Concordia president Alan Shepard. “It’s a career-changing gift for many of the students with the opportunities it will bring.”

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Upon his death in 2011, businessman and philanthropist Peter N. Thomson left part of his wealth to emerging artists and students. He asked his loved ones to choose suitable recipients for whom his donation could make a difference.

Leslie Raenden, his stepdaughter, said she wanted to meet all of his wishes in her choice. After much consideration, she is humbled and proud to have picked Concordia’s fine arts faculty.

“Peter made the decision that students are a worthwhile investment,” she said on stage at the university.

“That you are where he wants his assets to go, that you are where he thinks he will get the best return.”

Aside from the world of art, Thomson also maintained a deep affinity for Montreal. This continued even after he moved to the Bahamas in the 1970s, according to Raenden.

She said it only felt right to see his wealth be spent in a way to also benefit his birthplace.

“Peter loved Montreal,” she said. “So the fact Concordia sits in the heart of Montreal felt like this gift would be, in a way, an indirect donation to Montreal and [an] investment in the city that I think he would be proud of and I think he would be really excited about it.”

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Fine arts students should take pride in their craft

Rebecca Duclos, the dean of fine arts, called the donation a historic moment for the faculty.

“A gift of this nature and this scale allows us to help graduate students, to send our students all over the world through field-school fellowships,” she said.

When it comes to the innovation fund, it will help Concordia collaborate with the city on creating large-scale projects for the first time ever. She said it will bring the university out into the streets and welcome the streets into the university.

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Aside from helping out a growing arts community, Raenden said what she hopes the gift will do is spark a sense of pride in fine arts students at Concordia.

“Right now, I think my dream is that people engage and decide to do a degree in fine arts in a way that makes them proud,” Raenden said. “It’s a first choice, it’s a valuable choice, it’s an enriching choice.

“It’s not a second choice, it’s a first choice.”

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