Students and parents attending a McMaster convocation were surprised Friday by an impromptu $50-million gift from Michael G. DeGroote – benefactor of the university’s school of medicine.

“As you move forward in your exciting new careers as doctors, please know that I am proud and humbled to have played a small part in your education at McMaster. It is a real privilege to share this moment with you,” DeGroote said onstage at the ceremony this morning.

McMaster reported in a press release that those attending the ceremony “leapt to their feet and grabbed their phones to take pictures and tweet the good news…”

Dean of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine John Kelton said the philanthropist came to him to him a few months ago with the pledge and the two crafted the convocation surprise together.

"The room exploded," Kelton said. "It was an electric moment that in my life you only get a couple of these. It was simply remarkable."

In 2003 DeGroote gave $105-million to the university, helping to create the first named medical school in the country. The pledge is still considered the single largest cash gift ever given to a Canadian institution.

Kelton said DeGroote a “remarkable and generous man" and "very innovative risk taker."

“His commitment to helping create doctors who provide the most innovative, compassionate and evidence-based treatment is unparalleled,” Kelton said, also the vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Research funding

Kelton noted that DeGroote’s investments had helped McMaster become one of the top 15 medical schools in the world and the new funds would enable the university to “climb to even greater heights.”

McMaster said the $50-million would go towards creating stronger ties and alignment with McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business, as well as the School of Engineering, to create future partnerships that will focus on biomedical advances.

"We're going to go after training the top health leaders in the world," Kelton said.

The biggest component will go towards funding for a handful of McMaster's top researchers to take their work to the next level.

"This will continue to propel us forward," Kelton said and will "increasingly make Hamilton well known around the world."

McMaster University president Patrick Deane said DeGroote’s vision has shown his “unparalleled” vision in the school.

“Our goal is to see the medical school rise even further in its international prestige and such a landmark gift is the key to making that goal a reality,” he said.