A bursary inspired by the value of education

The Dalhousie Difference

- May 31, 2012

Stewart Allen. (Provided photo)
Stewart Allen. (Provided photo)

You’d think a self-made businessman who made it to the top with a Grade 11 education would scoff at the idea of post-secondary schooling.

“Are you kidding me?” says Stewart Allen, the soft-spoken baron of bottled water, who made his initial fortune at the helm of Nova Scotia-based Sparkling Spring Water Holdings, Ltd. “I can’t overstate the importance of a university education.  As far as I’m concerned, I owe my success in large part to being in the right place at the right time. It comes to down to luck, great long-term partners and a knack for numbers.”

Mr. Allen admits to being horrified back in the mid-nineties when his kids, as well as the kids of close family and friends, started saying out loud that they didn’t believe in the value of a university education. After all, they reasoned, look how well Dad/Uncle Stew had done for himself without one.

“I realized that in not being educated myself, I was setting a bad example and that didn’t sit well with me,” says Mr. Allen. “I’ve always led by example in my business life, taking pride in working hard, being first in the office in the morning and last to leave at night.”

Supporting education

That ‘Aha!’ moment prompted Mr. Allen to have individual discussions with his siblings, all successful in their own right. The upshot of that intervention was the Stewart E. Allen Family Trust, an endowment established in 2002 to support post-secondary education for his daughters Jackie and Jessie, as well as his nieces and nephews and the children of close family friends. The point, Mr. Allen says, is that he wanted to be sure that no one he cared about had to worry about financing their education.  

“I had never felt personally that university was something that would be available to me. It was never obvious to me that my parents could afford it and I certainly knew that I could not raise the money myself,” he says. “Besides, there was this little part of me that didn’t think I was smart enough.”

Flash forward to the present, and with the first generation of Allen scholars graduated and settling into their professional careers, Mr. Allen is turning his philanthropic sights on making a university education accessible to deserving students outside his immediate circle. His long-standing relationship with Larry Story, who serves on Dalhousie’s Board of Governors, steered him toward the medical school.

“Larry was very active in the cultivation process,” he says. “He played a big role in my decision to support medical students through a renewable bursary fund. I don’t know how to find these deserving students and Dal does, so that’s the nature of the partnership.”

The Stewart E. Allen Bursary in Medicine covers the cost of undergraduate medical tuition and fees for qualified students. “My aim is to help those bright young students for whom a medical education would be impossible without financial support,” says Mr. Allen. “I’m motivated by my love of the Maritimes and my Maritime daughters who grew up here. It’s a win-win all around.”

This article is part of the Dalhousie Difference series, exploring what the power of philantrophy means to the university and introducing and showcasing some of the 50 innovative projects in development. Learn more at boldambitions.dal.ca.


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