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Chat with McGill grad Seymour Schulich (BSc 1961, MBA 1965) and there's a good chance he'll recommend a helpful book or share some witty anecdotes about his remarkable life.
Visit his Toronto home, shared with Tanna, his spouse of 36 years, and Schulich's favoured role comes to the forefront. Snapshots of his wife, daughters and grandchildren appear everywhere: on tables, on shelves on walls. Schulich is a family man first.
The 65-year-old's blue eyes widen with pride when mentioning daughters Deborah and Judith. "I quite like folk music such as the Chad Mitchell Trio, but it drives them completely wild!" he chuckles.
Schulich laughs often and easily.
And while he's built a fortune in the macho world of mining, he doesn't conceal a soft spot for his grandchildren, Jade and Solomon, whose names elicit automatic smiles. Only his den provides clues that Schulich is one of Canada's leading businessmen and benefactors.
An entire wall is lined with picture-framed smiles of him with notable personalities. One image features Schulich and former U.S. President George Bush Sr. Another captures him with former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson as she named him a Member of the Order of Canada in 2000.
Photo albums burst with other milestones, including snapshots taken when he received honorary doctorates from York and McGill universities.
It seems prophetic that a quote included in his 1961 McGill yearbook profile became his creed: "Life is my college," it reads. "May I graduate well and earn some honours."
Schulich has done exceedingly well throughout his enterprising life. "I call it a combination of luck and hard work," he says.
Others might call him shrewd.
"Everyone in the Desautels Faculty of Management knew that Seymour was a whiz kid in finance," recalls Don Armstrong, a retired Desautels Faculty of Management professor, who taught Schulich in the 1960s.
An example of Schulich's business savvy was how he pioneered a unique concept of royalty payments in the mining industry that enabled, Franco-Nevada, the company he co-launched with business partner Pierre Lassonde, to become the world's premier resource royalty company.
In 2002, Schulich engineered a merger of Franco-Nevada to create Newmont Mining Corporation– now one of the largest gold mining companies in the world. Today, Schulich remains as Chairman of Newmont Capital Ltd, the merchant banking arm of Newmont Mining.
"Seymour Schulich is a fabulous success story and is unprecedented in his philanthropy as he has been in business," says Heather Munroe-Blum, McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor.
Indeed, along with his marriage and business association, Schulich's patronage of education has been his third great partnership in life. In 1995, his founding gift at York University transformed the business school and turned the Schulich School of Business into one of Canada's leaders in its field.
His York gift also fostered more of Canada's wealthy to step forward to support schools in their names. Optimism runs high that his recent gifts to the faculty of medicine at the University of Western Ontario, now called the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and to the newly named Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary, will do the same.
And he's supported his alma mater in the past, too. Almost $3 million has been given to McGill Libraries, the Schulich Library of Engineering and Science, as well as the Desautels Faculty of Management.
With his latest gift of $20 million towards the Schulich School of Music of McGill University, announced on the eve of International Music Day, his combined gifts towards universities will be in excess of $100 million, an amount unmatched by any other Canadian.
"His giving has been groundbreakingly generous, strategic and in keeping with his belief in the responsibility of the rich to apply their wealth to the greater public good," says Munroe-Blum.
Schulich considers that giving back to society is a duty. "Everyone who enjoys Canada's freedoms and standard of living, if able, has an obligation to give back," he says. "It doesn't matter what you give as long as you give back; giving time and talent are just as important."
Schulich pauses and says he's bothered that Canada's wealthy don't support charitable causes to the extent of their American peers. "We give 44 percent less, per capita, than Americans," he says. "Why should that be?"
"What better way to give back than to invest in the education of future generations," explains Schulich of his desire to support students.
In most cases, his donations have gone towards the establisment of scholarships. The reason? "Students should not have to graduate with debt," he says, stressing that scholarships are a better than loans wherever possible.
"The impact of Seymour Schulich on higher education is huge," marvels Don McLean, Dean of the Schulich School of Music of McGill University. "Over the next century, his combined gifts will have enabled 20,000 students across Canada to obtain Schulich scholarships.
"That's enough people to fill McGill's Molson Stadium."
Schulich's gift to McGill's music program will enable the creation of two endowed chairs and give generations of students an opportunity to make their musical dreams come true. His philanthropy will provide 40 renewable scholarships of about $10,000 per year for graduate music students and $5,000 per year for undergraduates.
Montreal-born Schulich knows first-hand the importance of academic support. Summer jobs spent working in glass or box factories, he recalls, "showed me if I didn't smarten up that would be my fate."
He became the first member of his family to attend university when he received a McGill Bachelor of Science in 1961. "I used to have a recurring nightmare that I'd be completing an exam in the Currie Gymnasium and I hadn't written a thing!" he laughs.
Schulich credits the $1,600 scholarship, received from the Bache & Co., as enabling him to complete his MBA in McGill's Desautels Faculty of Management's first graduating class of 1965.
"That scholarship changed my life. It allowed me to gain eight years of business experience in just two years," he says, noting he later obtained a degree as a chartered financial analyst from the University of Virginia in 1969. "To this day, I still use what I learned in some MBA classes when making decisions."
Retired professor Don Armstrong witnessed firsthand Schulich's gratitude for his MBA. During a talk, years later, to Armstrong's class, Schulich objected when a pupil suggested the real world was better place to prepare for business than an MBA. "Seymour said, 'The real world is an expensive place to get a management education. Your MBA will be the best and the cheapest way of reducing your losses as you begin your struggle with the real world. The more knowledge and the more skills you can acquire now, the more likely you are to avoid costly mistakes later.'"
Schulich has given an additional $50 million to other causes, including the Schulich Heart Centre at Sunnybrook, the Women's College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, as well as a student residence and chemistry hall at the University of Nevada.
His latest gift to McGill, he stresses, was a new direction for him. "Most of my prior gifts were for practical and hard-core programs."
Joe Sorbara, a Toronto real estate developer and director of the Toronto Symphony, uttered six words that ultimately convinced Schulich to make one of Canada's largest personal contribution to the cultural sector: "Music is what makes us human."
Another determining factor was the Schulich School of Music of McGill University's newest real estate: a $70-million project that opened September 30, 2005. "That building is a quantum step for the University," he says.
Schulich says his gift to McGill could be the last his family makes for the foreseeable future. "We could not be more pleased or proud to finalize this particular gift," he says.
"Music is a universal language understood and appreciated by virtually the entire human race."