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Engineering class donates millions to support eco-entrepreneurship


September 20, 2010
By Mary Del


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Engineering graduates from McMaster University’s class of 1962 have banded together to donate $3,043,000 to support entrepreneurs developing and bringing sustainable technologies to market.

The funds will establish the Class of ’62 Mechanical Engineering Chair in Eco-Entrepreneurship and a Fund for Sustainable Entrepreneurship. The Chair will reside in the Walter G. Booth School of Engineering Practice, with funds available to support students developing innovations. A search date for the Chair holder has yet to be determined.

It is the largest donation ever made to McMaster’s Faculty of Engineering. The six alumni making the donation are: Walter Booth (Burford, Ont.), Julius Brokloff (Mallorytown, Ont.), Irvine Hollis (Chatsworth, Ont.), David Male (Saskatoon, Sask.), George Menzies (Hamilton, Ont.), and Del Smith (Markham, Ont.).

"We thought a gift from past students to support future entrepreneurs would be an ideal way to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of the class," said Walter Booth on behalf of the donors, who still keep in close contact. "Being part of a first class, and entrepreneurial ourselves, we appreciate the type of support and encouragement new ventures need to succeed."

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The Chair in Eco-Entrepreneurship will investigate how public policy can be developed and implemented to encourage entrepreneurship in sustainable technologies. Government environmental and regulatory policies can strongly influence potential opportunities to develop new products and services, and determine the ability of a business to succeed.

"This is a generous, visionary and necessary donation if we are serious about building a sustainable future," said Patrick Deane, president and vice-chancellor of McMaster University. "The donation shows the impact a group of friends, who came together in a class some 50 years ago, can have on the future. That’s the power of universities in building lasting and influential friendships. That’s the power of alumni."

This gift builds on the $3 million previously donated by Booth to help establish the School of Engineering Practice. The School was formed in 2003 to provide engineers and scientists with the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary Master’s studies in entrepreneurship and innovation, public policy, engineering design, and manufacturing engineering. There are 120 students currently enrolled.

"There is no one better at taking ideas and turning them into reality than engineers who are also entrepreneurs," said David Wilkinson, dean of the Faculty of Engineering. "If anyone is up to the challenge of building a sustainable environment, they are. They already have the problem-solving skills. We provide the guidance and environment for them to become entrepreneurial. The support our alumni have shown…is both inspirational and practical in terms of achieving success."

The Faculty launched a five-year strategic plan in 2009 focused on engineering a sustainable society.

"Generating an idea is just the first step in addressing a problem or opportunity," said Samir Chidiac, director of the Walter G. Booth School of Engineering Practice. "Developing marketing strategies, addressing regulatory requirements, financing, and design and manufacturing, all weigh heavily in achieving viable solutions. The new Chair will help bring together these considerations to increase opportunities for success."

The Walter G. Booth School of Engineering Practice is home to three centres supported by academic, industry and government partners: the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Centre for Engineering and Public Policy, General Motors of Canada Centre for Engineering Design, and the Xerox Centre for Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation.