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Mining titan's $10M donation a 'transformative' gift

Rob and Cheryl McEwen make significant contribution to Northern Ontario's only architecture school

It was a monumental day for Laurentian University's School of Architecture as the school received a $10 million donation from Rob and Cheryl McEwen and got a change of name as well.

The school will now be known as the McEwen School of Architecture, as was announced by Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux during the donation ceremony on June 29.

“We are immensely grateful to the McEwen family for this transformative gift,” said Terrance Galvin, founding director of the School of Architecture.

“This investment will help us fulfil our mission to establish a unique and cutting-edge architecture program whose graduates will contribute to socio-economic and cultural development in northern latitudes across Canada and around the world. With his vision and enthusiasm, Rob will be a superb mentor to our students.”

One such example is first-year architecture student Angela Perdue, who spoke at the ceremony about the value of having an architecture school in her hometown.

“I adored each and every one of the projects assigned this year; I clearly understood their value in the world of design and appreciated their connection to the North,” said Perdue.

“The school of architecture here in Sudbury addresses the unique needs of northern communities; students establish a communal mindset from early on and learn to be respectful of the people and the environment. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to study my passion here at home.”

Rob and Cheryl McEwen are renowned for their philanthropic endeavours and have contributed more than $50 million in the fields of healthcare and education.

Though known as a visionary in the mining industry, one of McEwen's earliest passions was in fact, architecture.

“From the ages of seven to 18 I absolutely knew what I was going to be — I was going to be an architect,” said McEwen. “I loved and still love elegant, innovative and functional designs and structures that inspire and instill strength, confidence and awe.”

McEwen spent time after his first year of university working at INCO, a Sudbury connection that he still holds to this day.

“I worked in the Frood-Stobie mine doing many different jobs and was trained on many different pieces of equipment and at the end of the summer, the mine captain suggested that I was likely to get a scholarship if I applied,” said McEwen.

“I thanked him for the recommendation and support and I told him mining wasn't part of my future. Today, I find that statement most ironic. But I'm very grateful for my summer in Sudbury with INCO, as it prepared me for a future that I had not imagined.”

The McEwen School of Architecture is the first new school of architecture to open in Canada in the last 45 years. It is also the first school of its kind in Northern Ontario and the first outside of Quebec to offer courses in French. 

The school is housed in a new 77,000-square-foot, $45-million complex in the city's downtown, incorporating a pair of century-old repurposed buildings formerly owned by CP Rail and CP Telegraph. The final 52,000-square-foot phase officially opens this fall to serve more than 260 students.

“As we arrived this morning with Rob and Cheryl, I was once again struck by the tremendous change in our city's downtown skyline,” said Laurentian University president and vice-chancellor Dominic Giroux.

“What a transformation we have seen and how exciting it has been to watch the remarkable project take shape over the last several years," Giroux said. "You might say it takes a village to create the new and unique school of architecture, true, but it also takes the vision and support of people like Rob and Cheryl McEwen

"They have demonstrated their profound belief in making a difference and today they are making a big difference here at the Laurentian University School of Architecture.”


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