TORONTO — Businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich is launching a university “leaders” program that will see 20 Canadian students and five Israeli ones receive $15,000 a year to pursue studies in science-related programs.
High school graduates studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM subjects) are eligible for the annual sums, maxing-out at $60,000 for a four-year course. Schulich has designated UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to administer the pilot project.
In a telephone interview from his Toronto office, Schulich said the program is expected to grow from 25 student “leaders” in the first year to 75 in the third. If it proves successful, he’s ready to endow a $100-million fund to continue promoting education in the sciences to Canadian and Israeli students.
Envisioned as a sort of Canadian Rhodes Scholarship, Schulich said, “I want this endowment to go on a long time.”
Candidates will be selected with the expectation that they not only have good marks, but have also shown leadership either through community service or entrepreneurship, and demonstrate financial need.
The scholarship dwarfs the average $2,000 provided to students in leading science faculties in Canada, he said.
Canadian universities that will be asked to participate in the pilot program include York University, the University of Toronto, McMaster, Western, Queen’s, McGill, University of Calgary, University of Manitoba, Dalhousie and the University of British Columbia.
The Israeli schools to benefit are the Technion in Haifa, (Schulich already has a relationship with the university; in 2006, he gave the school’s chemistry department $22 million), Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Some 1,600 high schools across Canada and Israel will be able to nominate a single student each for the scholarship, and the universities will award the funds to the most capable candidate, Schulich said.
He hopes the program helps develop young leaders – people who will go on to make contributions to society – while helping drive each nation’s economy.
“Science and technology are the principal drivers for a country’s economy where education, fuelled by strong math, is essential for national and global economic performance. My hope is that after a successful pilot, this initiative will help ensure Canada and Israel are at the forefront of excellence in science and research for generations to come,” Schulich said.
The program was devised after a proposed major gift to the University of Waterloo fell through. Israeli universities were included because of his strong affiliation with his Jewish heritage.
“I’m Jewish, and if we don’t stick up for our own people, nobody will,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we learned a lesson it was that we have to depend on ourselves. I take that seriously. I’m as Canadian as can be, but I’m also Jewish.”
As currently devised, the program “is a way of saying to the greater community in Canada, very specifically, that we don’t only look after our own, but we’re part of the bigger community.”
Schulich turned to UJA Federation to implement the program because of the organization’s longevity and experience managing large sums of money. He also has teamed with federation before, as well as World ORT and the government of Israel to build 850 classrooms equipped with white boards and computers for schools in the Jewish state.
“I was very impressed by the way they handled themselves,” he said.
Federation will receive an annual $200,000 fee for the first three years the project runs.