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Donation to assist students tackling environmental issues

Bruce Shirreff, left, and Dr. Noreen Golfman.

By Jennifer O’Neill

Graduate students pursuing study or research in environment-related disciplines received a $400,000 boost in financial aid from TD Bank Financial Group on Feb. 8, following an announcement of a donation now representing the largest endowed graduate student bursary offered at Memorial.

Bruce Shirreff, senior vice-president TD Canada Trust, Dr. Christopher W. Loomis, president and vice-chancellor pro tempore, and Gen. Rick J. Hillier (Ret’d), Memorial’s Chancellor, celebrated the donation in St. John’s with special guests, TD representatives, senior university administration, faculty, staff and students.

TD’s support enables Memorial to address an urgent need to build its number and level of graduate awards. In 2008-2009, only 79 graduate students – three per cent of the graduate student population – received donated financial support.

“A key pillar of Memorial’s Strategic Plan is to grow our capacity, impact and reputation in research. Increasing the number of graduate students, especially those in PhD programs, is critical to achieving that goal,” said Dr. Loomis. He added that the impact of TD’s giving is important not only to the future of Memorial, but to the sustainability of the planet we all share. “Through this generous gift, Memorial will be able to offer more competitive financial packages to attract the best students wishing to pursue advanced studies and research on the environment.”

TD’s Bruce Shirreff said that the donation, which is also the largest single philanthropic contribution TD has ever made to Memorial, will strengthen Memorial’s ability to provide higher education opportunities for students, and will have a lasting impact on our environment for years to come. “The environment and Canada are forever linked, and we recognize the growing need to provide students with access to funding so we can advance our country’s expertise in this important field.”

Dr. Darin King, provincial minister of Education, thanked TD for their support, and spoke of the important relationship Memorial has with the province. He issued a challenge to other corporations and individuals who may not yet be part of the Memorial “family” to support the university’s initiatives.

“The more we can get support like this, the more we can do great things at this university and continue to expand upon the things that we’re doing,” said Dr. King. “What’s happening here is just phenomenal.”

Dr. Noreen Golfman, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, says the donation will go a long way in supporting graduate-level environmental research.

“Our graduate students benefit from a range of interdisciplinary programs under the tutelage of expert faculty members,” said Dr. Golfman. “This funding will not only enable scholars to advance cutting-edge research projects, but will also make it possible for deserving students to focus more on their academic pursuits without the burden of financial obstacles.”

TD’s donation is timely given that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation (TD FEF), a not-for-profit organization that has been supporting grassroots wildlife and environment projects in communities across Canada since 1990. The Newfoundland TD FEF chapter has provided $200,000 to support more than 120 local projects over the past 20 years. Those projects include environmental programs for children, trail restoration and protecting wildlife species that are at risk. With support from customers and employees, TD is involved with a host of national, regional and local causes benefiting diversity, arts and culture, and other community programs. In 2009, TD donated $37 million to more than 2,500 organizations across Canada.