UVic Torch -- Autumn 2007
Autumn 2007,
Volume 28, Number 2

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Illustration by MYFANWY PAVELIC

Self-described “gumboot” fisherman Bob Wright injects $11 million into climate research and scholarships.

Bob Wright, founder of the Victoria-based Oak Bay Marine Group of sports-fishing businesses, has donated $11 million to support the university’s new global centre of excellence in ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences. A portion of the donation, $1 million, will fund scholarships.

Announced on the first day of summer, the gift amount is unprecedented in the university’s history.

Wright’s support grew out of a concern about global climate change, its potential impacts, and contradictory opinions about the issue. “I have made my living from the ocean. I live on the ocean, I work on the ocean, and my business interests are on the ocean,” Wright told the Globe and Mail. “As a gumboot fisherman with very limited educational background, I thought what the hell is really going on here?”

Wright also made the donation on behalf of his company’s “crew” of employees, many of whom are UVic alumni. “I have had many UVic graduates and students work with the (company) over the years and I’ve always valued the education they received there,” he said. “The scholarship fund will help more students experience a UVic education.”

Wright quit school in Grade 10 and moved to Victoria from the Prairies, establishing the Oak Bay Marine Group in 1962. The company operates resorts, marinas and attractions in BC, the US and the Bahamas and has more than 1,000 employees.

President David Turpin initially suggested, during a lunch meeting at Wright’s Marina Restaurant, that Wright consider a donation of $10 million. A few weeks later the president’s phone rang. “He said 'Dave, I'd like to help but I'm not going to give you $10 million,’” Turpin recalled at the donation announcement. “He went on to say 'What I am willing to do is, I’m willing to give you $11 million—$10 million for the building and $1 million for scholarships."

The new building, due for completion next year, is situated behind the Elliott Building and will bring together earth and oceans faculty currently dispersed across seven campus buildings. It will also house federal scientists from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis.

The synergy created by having everyone under one roof will make a “tremendous difference,” according to Faculty of Science Dean Tom Pederson.

The building has a project budget of $66.6 million, with over 12 thousand gross square metres of lecture space, labs, offices, meeting rooms and food services.

It is among four buildings currently under construction on campus. The Torch is planning full coverage of all of the buildings once they’re complete next year.

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