From the Dal Archives: A legacy of generosity

- June 25, 2024

Miscellany from past Dalhousie fundraising campaigns. (Nick Pearce photo)
Miscellany from past Dalhousie fundraising campaigns. (Nick Pearce photo)

Dalhousie’s history is peppered with generous—and timely—gifts, beginning with the largesse of George Munroe in the 1880s. However, despite subsequent legacies from businessman Alexander McLeod and long-serving chair of the Board of Governors Sir William Young, there was little left in the bank after building the new Dalhousie College. In 1890 the alumni met with the board and convinced them that the solution was to canvas Maritimers and raise $50,000 to shore up the endowment. But even with a $10,000 gift from confectionary manufacturer John P. Mott, Dalhousie’s first fundraising campaign was not considered a great success.

Fast-forward 20 years to the Dalhousie Forward Movement, an appeal for $300,000 to build the new Studley Campus. Despite challenges posed by inadequate contact information for some 2000 alumni, by October 1912 the campaign had exceeded expectations and raised $444,891. However, a Student Forward Movement calculated to piggyback on its success was thwarted by the start of World War One. 

A dramatic increase in student numbers after the war brought back into focus the demand for residences, an arts building, a library stack, a gymnasium, and a student building. On top of that was an urgent need for endowments to increase teaching salaries and create new chairs in arts and in law. Thus began the Million Dollar Campaign of 1920, which ended up raising $2 million.

Ten years later, hopes were high for a $3-million campaign, thanks in part to active alumni associations in New York, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, as well as an updated directory. However, the stock market crash of October 1929 felled campaign plans. In 1939 a Loyalty Campaign was started with a lofty goal of $4.4 million—once again, a world war intervened, and the campaign was postponed. 

The second half of the twentieth century was more auspicious, beginning with the Dalhousie Expansion Appeal of 1945, framed as an investment in youth. Unprecedented growth in student enrolment and Dalhousie’s emergence as a leader in teaching, research, and community service throughout Canada were expressed in increasingly ambitious campaigns such as Dalhorizons (1969), Campaign for Dalhousie (1986), Capital Ideas (1994), and Bold Ambitions (2013).

Much has changed since the university’s appeal to alumni for “a quarter a week or a dollar a month,” but the pride of Dalhousians continues to keep apace with the extraordinary evolution of their beloved college by the sea.

This story appeared in the DAL Magazine Spring/Summer 2024 issue. Flip through the rest of the issue using the links below.


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