The family connection to UBC runs deep in Senator Ross Fitzpatrick’s family.
His mother graduated from the university as did he, his son Gordon and two of his grandchildren.
That family link to UBC will carry on in perpetuity thanks to a donation of $1.25 million by Fitzpatrick and his wife Linda to the teaching and learning centre at the Kelowna campus, to be called the D. Ross Fitzpatrick Great Hall.
Already tagged with the abbreviated moniker Fitz Hall, Fitzpatrick said he was inspired by the UBCO Student Union’s commitment of $10 million towards the $35 million project cost.
“For Linda and I to do this, I think our interest was to support the students, but the students are really supporting us,” Fitzpatrick said at ceremony to announce the donation held at the campus on Wednesday, attended by many university and political dignitaries including Senator Nancy Greene Raine.
“We were inspired by the students agreeing to fund their own facility, by pledging $10 million towards it over a number of years. I don’t know any other university where this has happened. And when you listen to the students as we had the chance to do today, you can see what dedication and how important education is to these young people.”
The teaching and learning centre, currently under construction, will feature an expansive two-storey hall on the ground floor with about 6,400 sq.ft. of flexible, multi-use space. It is being built to the north of the current campus library, the most highly used library in the UBC system.
The centre’s objective is to address a critical need for flexible classroom and laboratory space, and alleviate library overcrowding.
Included in the Fitzpatrick donation is an additional $250,000 to create the Ross and Linda Fitzpatrick Centennial Scholars Endowment Fund.
Bursaries from this endowment will support incoming UBCO students who demonstration academic excellence, leadership and financial need. Special emphasis will be placed on students from the South Okanagan and through the UBC Blue and Gold Campaign for Students.
“I was able to get my education thanks to bursaries and scholarships like the one we’re creating today,” Fitzpatrick noted. “I can’t think of a more fulfilling pursuit than to offer the opportunity of a university education to those who may otherwise not have the financial means.”
Fitzpatrick’s strong ties to UBC are also matched by his deep roots to the Okanagan. Born to an agricultural family in Kelowna and raised in Oliver, he completed his Commerce and Business Administration degree at UBC in 1958 and was awarded a UBC Honorary Doctorate in 2012 for his work and contributions to the community.
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His career led him to find success as an entrepreneur in the aerospace, oil and gas, and mining industries across North America.
In the 1980s, he returned to the Okanagan to promote value-added agriculture, founding CedarCreek Estate Winery and pioneering the planting of vinifera grapes in the region to produce high-quality wine.
He served in Canada’s Senate from 1998 to 2008, representing Okanagan-Similkameen, and was awarded the Order of B.C. in 2009.
“The Fitzpatrick family’s impact in this region is already immense and this gift will inspire and support future generations of UBC students. Fitz Hall is the perfect embodiment of their legacy in the Okanagan,” said Deborah Buszard, UBC deputy vice-chancellor and principal of the Kelowna campus.
Trophy Ewila, president of the UBCO Student Union, said a commitment to funding of the project confirmed in a 2014 student-passed referendum was a reflection of student’s investment in the future of education.
“Many of them will not be here to benefit from their donation but they still saw the benefit it will bring to others in the future. It seemed like a crazy idea at first but impossibility is broken when we stand together,” Ewila said.
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