Why I Give

George Cooper’s (BSc’62, LLB’65, LLD’04) leadership and support have elevated conversations about democracy

- December 1, 2021

Photo: Nick Pearce
Photo: Nick Pearce

Growing up in Halifax, George Cooper had a classmate named Sarah, whose father was Robert Stanfield (BA’36). Young George would visit the Stanfield home, crossing paths with the man who would become Nova Scotia’s premier from 1956–67, and federal Progressive Conservative Party leader from 1967–76. As Cooper matured, his admiration for Stanfield deepened. He still considers him an exemplar of respectful politics.

“Bob Stanfield was always a gentleman. He’d never make a sharp or unfair attack,” says Cooper.

It was fitting then that in 2019, while lamenting the erosion of political tone worldwide, Stanfield’s name was suggested as one around which a new lecture series focused on restoring democracy be built. The idea for what would become Stanfield Conversations: Talking Democracy—aimed at the highest levels of academic and public interest—was born.

His ambitious pitch captured then-Dalhousie President Richard Florizone’s interest, and later aligned with current President Deep Saini’s vision for Dalhousie as a civic university with global impact.

The next challenge was to raise $1 million to launch the endowed annual lectures. Luckily, Cooper was no stranger to giving at Dal. For 21 years, he was managing trustee of the Killam Trusts, which award prestigious scholarships and fellowships and helped establish Dal as a leading research institution. It wouldn’t be easy but Cooper, retired as president of the University of King’s College and managing partner at the law firm of McInnes Cooper, had Stanfield’s legacy as motivation. As the vision grew, Cooper’s Dal law classmate and former prime minister, Joe Clark, and former Deputy Prime Minister and Dalhousie Chancellor Anne McLellan (BA’71, LLB’74), agreed to co-chair the advisory board.

“Education is the key to all human progress. How lucky I was to have had Dalhousie as my mentor! As an aging alumnus, I want to do what I can to help our alma mater give new generations of young minds an outstanding education.”

Cooper’s future aspirations are to grow engagement with young people and to extend the conversations’ reach through advanced digital technologies. “I don’t think the university has ever been stronger than it is today—in absolute or relative terms,” says Cooper. “These conversations are a worthy project for a university of Dalhousie’s stature.”

Thanks to gifts he gave and secured, plus Cooper’s leadership, Dalhousie now hosts a series that is both catalyst and driver of important discussions about democracy on a national and international scale.

This story appeared in the DAL Magazine Fall 2021 issue. Flip through the rest of the Fall 2021 issue using the links below.


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