Gratitude. More important than ever.

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This article was published 2/4/2020 (824 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Gratitude. More important than ever.

These are uncertain times for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented and all-encompassing, means we are facing new challenges accompanied by some uncomfortable unknowns.

While it is difficult to accept this new normal, I have found hope in the knowledge that we are all dealing with this together, and Manitobans, by our very nature, are a tenacious and kind-hearted people. During times of crisis we discover new ways to work collectively for the common good and on this shared journey, we find inspiration and gratitude in the stories of goodwill, of accomplishment and achievement, of commitment and community.

In this spirit, we bring you some of these stories today.

These are the stories of the Front and Centre campaign for the University of Manitoba. They remind us of what happens when everyone comes together with passion and generosity.

At the heart of this campaign are the 62,075 donors—including 25,806 alumni—who have put the work of University of Manitoba faculty and staff front and centre, magnifying their impact in our province and in communities around the world. This generosity was amplified by our volunteers—students, faculty, staff, community members and the President’s Campaign Team—who together have achieved something truly remarkable for our province. They are a reminder that even in such an exceptionally difficult time, we still have much to be grateful for.

The story of this campaign will unfold for years to come in emerging areas of research, in the outstanding experiences of our students, and in the revitalizing of learning spaces on our campuses, now made possible.

Read about gifts that came from far and wide, and that speak to what matters most to our donors. They will ensure our province becomes a centre of excellence for Indigenous education and research. They will champion scientists and scholars making discoveries that contribute to global knowledge, grow the economy and offer real solutions in an ever-challenging world.

They will have an impact that will endure far beyond our current crisis. They will inspire. They will shine a guiding light as we enter our new reality.

Thank you. Miigwetch. Be well.

David T. Barnard
University of Manitoba President and Vice-Chancellor

Leading by example

The concept: Bring together students from across disciplines, post-secondary institutions and regions of Manitoba to build their leadership potential.

The new President’s Student Leadership Program launched last year at UM and is a key offering of the James W. Burns Leadership Institute, made possible by a combined $12-million gift from Canada Life, IG Wealth Management, Power Corporation of Canada, and their respective senior executives.

The first students took part in workshops, listened to influential speakers, and took on a social change project. Here’s what they’ve learned so far from the experience—and from one another.



College of Nursing student River Steele (1) plans to shape culturally-safe education, patient care and policies in Manitoba: "I want to be someone who makes those changes."

What Steele now knows about leadership: Humility, and listening to all viewpoints, are paramount. "You have to welcome the voices you don’t want to hear."

A leader Steele admires: Indigenous teen activist Autumn Peltier (2), who addressed the UN General Assembly on the issue of clean water.

A discussion Steele valued with classmate Amy Jackson (3): how traditional culture can help define an individual’s identity.

A University College of the North history student, and daughter of a Residential School Survivor, Jackson says her goal is to create social change, teaching Canadian history that is "accurate and real." "I believe, with the proper education, people will be more open to one another."

Her thoughts on the leadership program so far: "It’s been eye-opening and exciting to meet people from different backgrounds—different disciplines—with a similar vision. Ultimately, we all want to make a difference."

Whom she has learned from: Former CBC producer Cate Friesen (4), who spoke to students about the power of story in moving people to action.

What Jackson now knows about leadership: It’s less about being officially recognized as a leader than it is about leading by example.

Read more stories of impact and watch our campaign wrap video at

Shining a light



Chimwemwe Undi has always been one who watches—an orange being peeled, a dancer’s uninhibited limbs, how we treat those different than us.

As a child, observation helped her make sense of the ever-changing places she inhabited. Born in Winnipeg, Undi was a toddler when her family moved to Zambia, then Namibia, for her father Michael’s research as an animal scientist. She returned to Canada at 13.

"I’ve actually never lived where people automatically assumed that I was part of the in group, that that was where I belonged. It’s shaped who I am and what I had to become comfortable doing: being out of my element," says the emerging poet and spoken-word artist who received a Schwartz/Reisman Scholarship last year.

Embracing the uncomfortable has made this UM student a vocal truth teller, unafraid of calling out injustices. When the CBC commissioned her last year to describe the personal toll of racism, she was emphatic: Maybe it’s me, the only Black girl in too many rooms, asked to be an avatar, a metaphor, a megaphone, to speak when spoken to and then never for myself.

The scholarship, created by longtime UM supporters Heather Reisman and Gerald Schwartz, gave Undi the freedom to keep creating, and enlightening, through prose as she works towards owning a different stage: the courtroom. Undi is three years into a law degree.

"Poetry to me is very much understanding how small things are connected to big things, and I think that perspective is really important in the law."

UM: An international leader



From decoding a rare genetic disorder, to mining reams of data for inherited health risks, to charting new paths in how we do research and share knowledge.

These are just some of the interdisciplinary research projects fuelled by the Rady Innovation Fund, made possible by the largest-ever personal donation to the University of Manitoba, and to what is now the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

Alumnus Ernest Rady made history four years ago when he announced the Rady Family Foundation’s gift of $30 million, which he and wife Evelyn dedicated to his parents, Rose and Dr. Max Rady, the latter a UM alumnus, physician and namesake of the Max Rady College of Medicine.

"I hope [this gift] positions the university as an international leader in health education, training, research and practice," says Ernest.

The recently funded research will help uncover the mechanism of Rett syndrome, a severe neurodevelopmental disorder in girls that has no cure. Another project promises to develop a "living laboratory" where research on pediatric rehabilitation could be carried out and communicated in innovative ways. A third project will employ a cutting-edge "big data" study, linking Manitobans’ electronic health records with those of their adult children to measure, across a population, how much having a parent with a chronic disease raises a person’s risk for that disease or related illnesses.

Powering Manitoba's knowledge economy

If you ever receive a silent MRI, thank a graduate student—because that’s the kind of innovation UM grad students pioneer. And don’t forget to thank the donors who supported grad students through the Front and Centre campaign, keeping bright minds in Manitoba. It’s the work of curious master’s and PhD students that brings us closer to answering questions like:

Can virtual reality help us diagnose Alzheimer’s?
How do we reduce resistance to antibiotics?
How do we design buildings to better withstand earthquakes?
How can sexually exploited women best use traditional healing?
How do we treat leukemia in a less toxic way?
How do we make bumpy ambulance rides safer for people with spinal cord injuries?

A Bridge to Indigenous Student Success

Every year, UM welcomes approximately 500 new First Nations, Inuit and Métis students. The Qualico Bridge to Success Program—made possible thanks to a donation from real estate development company Qualico—nurtures the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional growth of Indigenous students as they transition into post-secondary education.

"I know that because of this program, I am able to go through the rest of my degree with confidence." – Zoe Quill, Cree
Student and participant of the Qualico Bridge to Success Program

One of the initiative’s most popular components is the Neechiwaken Indigenous Peer Mentor Program, where new and experienced students are paired together to share successes, challenges and experiences.

"Neechiwaken is a Cree term meaning 'friend,'" explains program facilitator Carla Loewen. "My goal is to create a supportive student community and inspire new students to become mentors themselves in their second year. It is so rewarding to see that vision in action."

Improving lives around the world



The University of Manitoba received $167.7 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supporting global public health research. The foundation, widely known for its efforts to reduce inequity, has supported UM researchers determined to create positive change in partnership with communities, from curbing HIV/AIDS in countries such as Kenya, to advancing understanding of breast milk in Pakistan, to helping mothers safely deliver healthy babies in India. Urgency demands action.

"We’re there as partners to do things together and to learn together," says James Blanchard, director of UM’s Centre for Global Public Health, and a Canada Research Chair in Epidemiology and Global Public Health. "The most gratifying part is seeing the ideas we create with our partnerships make an impact. That’s what matters."

Unravelling the mystery of multiple sclerosis



Her right eye failed her first. Its every movement wrought pain. Mysteriously, that passed, but then depression crept up on the mother of two boys and she grew weary. As years went on, she increasingly visited hospitals. Arthritis. Inflamed bowels. Eye pain, again. Her leg began hurting too, and soon it rebelled: first spasms, then a complete dereliction of duty—it no longer obeyed her. Seven years after her eye first stung, she clumsily limped to her doctor to learn she has multiple sclerosis.

She carries the hallmarks of many MS patients: predominantly female, aged 20 to 50, living far from the equator and suffering other health conditions. Such comorbidity is of particular interest to UM researcher Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie (above).

Marrie is the inaugural holder of the Waugh Family Chair in Multiple Sclerosis, created thanks to a $2-million gift from the Waugh Family Foundation to investigate the causes of MS and improve the quality of life for the 100,000 Canadians living with this disease of the central nervous system. Canada, particularly the Prairies, has the highest prevalence of MS in the world.

"If we can figure out why these comorbid conditions occur, we might be able to do something in terms of prevention or better understanding the disease," says Marrie.

More than $4 million from students, for students

They gave in multiple ways—through their faculties, ongoing individual gifts, and pledges from the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) and the University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Association (UMGSA). And in doing so, they put students front and centre. It’s so important students invest in students, says Tanjit Nagra, former UMSU president who was at the helm to announce the union’s largest gift ever—$16.22 million—which contributed to the $46.4-million total tally. "It is a message of empowerment," she says.

"We as students only have so much to give, but are doing what we can to help one another succeed." This giving is set to have a big impact—from boosting student services to doubling undergrad research opportunities.



New bursaries open doors



The Asper family believes greatness can emerge from anywhere and anyone. Building on a legacy of philanthropy that began with parents Israel and Babs, the next generation—David, Gail and Leonard—steps forward time and again.

"We are keeping students in Manitoba, which strengthens our institutions." – Leonard Asper

The Foundation's most recent gift of $5 million will establish The Asper Foundation Entrance Bursary, removing financial barriers and making university possible for hundreds of students each year.

Pursuing scientific discoveries of global importance

The Arctic contains an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil. As our warming climate opens this once inaccessible locale to mineral companies, we must ask, What would happen if things went wrong in such a remote place? At worst, if an oil spill occurred right before or during winter's freeze-up, no emergency vessel could respond. The oil would flow until spring and the ice, always moving, would drag it throughout the Arctic's pristine vastness.

The $32-million Churchill Marine Observatory, funded in part by the Province of Manitoba through the Front and Centre campaign, will be the first such Arctic Ocean laboratory in the world. Two pools filled with seawater will allow researchers to gain unprecedented insight into the Arctic ecosystem and how we can protect it on that inevitable day when oil spills from a supertanker or rig.

"Development of resources is not wrong," says David Barber, Canada Research Chair in Arctic-System Science and associate dean of research in the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources. "What’s wrong is to do it without any thought to sustainability and the protection of the environment."

Better spaces, more places



The impact of donors who invested in UM infrastructure spans two campuses, touching nearly every corner, and also reaches into the greater community. These places will inspire, offer modern tools and technologies, enrich the cultural spirit of campus, and serve as collaborative spaces with community partners.

During the Front and Centre campaign, donors funded upgrades to 37 buildings and brought to life another seven—from a rehearsal building for student musicians to a high-tech dairy complex that will help advance Manitoba’s dairy industry.

The architecture studios (pictured above) were among the many spaces reimagined thanks to a philanthropic investment of $10 million from the Richardson Foundation.

By challenging others to match its commitment, the Foundation will have a $20-million impact on classrooms, laboratories and learning spaces on our campuses.

"All of us who have been enriched by a university education can appreciate how critical the spaces and facilities are to the success of our experience," said Hartley Richardson, president and CEO of James Richardson and Sons Ltd.

Advocating human rights



Donors to the Front and Centre campaign paved the way for UM's new interdisciplinary master of human rights program. It's the first in Canada and among the few in the world. The inaugural cohort of 21 students come from five countries and diverse academic backgrounds in law, arts, education, agriculture and social work. Among them: Nwora Azubike, born in Aguluezechukwu, a small town in Eastern Nigeria. He wants to focus on the rights of children, particularly those caught up in human trafficking in his homeland. Already, his advocacy for the people of a flooded-out slum in Ghana stopped the government from levelling the shanty town and leaving 79,000 people homeless. "They were violating people’s right to adequate housing, to life, to the pursuit of happiness," Azubike says.

That's a wrap.



We know we're all having a rough ride right now. We thought long and hard about whether it was the right time to share the success of the Front and Centre campaign. We went ahead because it feels good to take a moment to embrace good news—news that speaks to the strength of community.

We've all heard the expression "It takes a village to raise a child." I’ve always appreciated its wisdom and often thought about how those around us influence how we develop and who we become. In the case of this campaign, it took a community to make it happen.

A special thanks to the President's Campaign Team of 26 community and business leaders who stepped up to donate to, and drive, this campaign.

Together, we set out on Manitoba's largest-ever philanthropic journey: to raise $500 million to position the University of Manitoba to take its place in the next chapter, following its almost century-and-a-half existence. When we launched the campaign, the goal seemed daunting. But, in true Manitoba tradition, where there’s a will, there is a way. It’s amazing what can be accomplished, how we can surpass even the loftiest of goals, when no one cares who gets the credit. But some recognition is appropriate here.

To Chancellor Emeritus and Honorary Campaign Chair Harvey Secter: thanks for your leadership, guidance and wisdom. To President and Vice-Chancellor David Barnard: thanks for your vision and perseverance championing such an important effort, advancing the UM mission by engaging alumni and friends to become donors and champions of the cause. To Vice-President (External) John Kearsey and the entire External Relations team: thanks for the vital role you played and all that we’ve accomplished.

And finally and most importantly, to our 62,075 donors, big and small, THANK YOU for making this happen. Thank you to the one in five UM alumni who gave. $626,260,909! Thank you!

And so, a million thanks—600 times over.

Paul Soubry
President and CEO, NFI Group Inc.
Front and Centre Campaign Chair

Thank you from the President's Campaign Team

  • Gail Asper President, The Asper Foundation
  • David T. Barnard President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Manitoba
  • Ted Bock
  • Alan Borger President and CEO, Ladco Company Limited
  • Doneta Brotchie President, FUNdamentals–Creative Ventures
  • Thomas Bryk President & Chief Executive Officer, Cambrian Credit Union
  • Dave Christie Retired, RBC Wealth Management, Private Banking Royal Bank of Canada
  • Chris Couture Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Arthur Defehr Retired President and CEO, Palliser Furniture Ltd.
  • Rick Duha Managing Director, The Duha Group
  • Mark Evans Founder, Conquest Planning Inc.
  • Albert Friesen CEO and Chairman of the Board, Medicure Inc.
  • David Friesen Chairman of the Board, Friesens Corporation
  • Susan Glass Community Volunteer
  • Gregg Hanson Retired President and CEO, Wawanesa Insurance
  • Israel Idonije President, iF Charities Foundation Retired NFL Player
  • John Kearsey Vice-President, External, University of Manitoba
  • Paul Mahon President and CEO, Great-West Lifeco & Canada Life
  • Arthur V. Mauro Retired President and CEO, Investors Group Chancellor Emeritus, University of Manitoba
  • Leonard Penner Retired President, Cargill Limited
  • Gerry Price Chairman and CEO, Price Industries Limited
  • D. John Proven Chief Operating Officer, Conviron
  • Hartley T. Richardson President and CEO, James Richardson and Sons, Ltd.
  • Harvey Secter Honorary Campaign Chair Chancellor Emeritus, University of Manitoba
  • Paul Soubry Campaign Chair President and CEO, NFI Group Inc.
  • Jason Stefanson Vice Chairman, CIBC Capital Markets
  • Arni Thorsteinson President, Shelter Canadian Properties Limited
  • Rick Waugh Retired President and CEO, Scotiabank
  • Don Whitmore Chairman, Vector Construction Ltd.