A Manitoba businessman has donated $20 million to the University of Manitoba's music school — the largest private donation the university has ever received.

Alumnus Marcel A. Desautels said his love of music prompted the donation, which earned him two standing ovations from gathered faculty and students during an announcement Tuesday at the university.

"Every student should have the opportunity to be exposed to music in one way or another — by either learning to play an instrument, in the area of dance, by singing solo or in a choir, etc.," Desautels said in a release. "Exposure to music is important for the complete development of a person."

The $20 million will enter university coffers over the next five years. Half will be used to create an endowment fund to provide bursaries, scholarships, fellowships and prizes for students, while the rest will go toward a new, larger home on campus for the music faculty in Tache Hall.

"As a distinguished graduate and incredible benefactor of both the University of Manitoba and other Canadian universities, Marcel has set an example that few might be able to follow but all can admire," said university president Emoke Szathmary.

Steve Kirby, head of the faculty's jazz program, said the money will help realize one of his long-term dreams: to become a "viable alternative" to the Institute for Jazz Studies at the world-renowned Juilliard School  in New York City.

The university has agreed to rename the music faculty after Desautels, who was described as a lifelong singer who once considered a career in opera. 

Instead, Desautels made his fortune in the credit industry as CEO and president of Creditel of Canada Ltd., a commercial credit information and debt collection company, for more than 25 years. 

He later created the philanthropic Canadian Credit Management Fund, which has given $80 million to universities across Canada over the last 12 years.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Desautels holds bachelor, master and honorary doctorate of law degrees from the University of Manitoba.