Smith Engineering Queen's University sign

Engineering's new era

The unveiling of Smith Engineering honours a transformative gift to reimagine STEM education through engineering at Queen's.

A transformational change in Queen’s engineering education is on the horizon, thanks to an unparalleled gift from financial-services entrepreneur and Queen’s University alumnus, Stephen J.R. Smith (Sc’72, LLD'17). 

In what is now the largest donation of its kind to an engineering faculty in Canada, Mr. Smith’s gift is founded on his commitment to nurturing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, supporting the engineers of tomorrow, and preparing and empowering Queen’s engineering graduates to confront society’s most pressing challenges head-on. 

The impact of the gift will be recognized in Queen’s engineering graduates who will be equipped with the practical and technical skills, and the multi-disciplinary and experiential academic background to make a difference around the world.

At a special event in Mitchell Hall today Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane acknowledged this extraordinary gift and announced that in recognition of Mr. Smith’s $100-million donation the faculty will now bear his name: the Stephen J.R. Smith Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Queen’s University, to be known colloquially as Smith Engineering.

“The education I received as a student at Queen’s was foundational to the success I’ve achieved in my professional and personal life,” says Mr. Smith. “I have long admired Queen’s commitment to STEM education and research, and I am proud to be able to contribute as it transforms engineering education to prepare graduates to address the greatest challenges of our times.”

In 1972, Mr. Smith earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Queen’s and has since become one of Canada’s most successful financial entrepreneurs and a leading philanthropist. He is the Chairman and CEO of Smith Financial Corporation, which has significant equity investments in a range of financial services businesses: First National Financial Corporation, Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Corporation, Fairstone Bank of Canada, Peloton Capital Management, Equitable Bank, Glass Lewis & Co., and Home Capital Group.

Beyond his business ventures, Mr. Smith actively supports Canadian culture by making substantial contributions to the arts, history, and numerous charities. Queen’s bestowed Mr. Smith with an honourary degree in 2017 to celebrate his contributions to the university, the local community, Canadian society, and to the world.

“Queen’s is incredibly grateful for this remarkable gift from such a distinguished alumnus and outstanding Canadian as Stephen Smith,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane, who announced Mr. Smith’s donation during an official celebration event on November 2. “Stephen’s transformational gift will benefit faculty and students for generations to come. The significance of this investment and the renaming of the faculty herald a new era for engineering education at Queen’s and underscores our university’s commitment to shaping a better future for people and the planet.”

The majority of the $100 million gift will be endowed to provide an enduring legacy of talent and resources from around the world for generations to come. The balance will facilitate the development and implementation of groundbreaking programs, as well as investments in research, technology, and equipment. 

“This gift is about our students. It is about re-imagining engineering education to prepare them to help solve the grand challenges facing humanity,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean of Smith Engineering. “It is about changing what we teach and how we teach to equip our students with deep technical knowledge and an awareness of societal factors.”

Smith Engineering is now positioned to pioneer transformative advancements in engineering education, including problem-based and multidisciplinary learning, competency-based education, and experiential opportunities.

“New generations of Queen’s engineers will blend top-tier technical expertise with a deep understanding of society and the world,” says Dean Deluzio. “Our graduates will be equipped to tackle the major challenges of today and tomorrow, developing modern solutions that prioritize human and environmental needs.”

This is Mr. Smith’s second notable gift to Queen’s, following his $50-million contribution in 2015 to bolster the university’s leadership position and its business school’s reputation both nationally and internationally. Since then, Smith School of Business has attracted top-tier talent, advanced innovative programs, and garnered national and international acclaim.

Learn more about Stephen J. R. Smith’s remarkable gift and the future of Smith Engineering.

This story first appeared in the Queen's Gazette.