British Columbia

Major donor loses fight to have his name on all UBC law school degrees

One of the most prominent donors to the University of British Columbia is taking the school to court, saying the institution isn't holding up its end of the deal they struck when he he made a historic donation to its law school.

Peter A. Allard hoped for 'reasonable' reference to his name on degrees after $30M donation

Peter A. Allard gave $30 million to the university on a number of agreed terms, including that degrees granted by the Faculty of Law would have Allard's name on them. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

One of the most prominent donors to the University of British Columbia has lost a lengthy legal fight to have his name printed on every degree given to students who graduate from the law school that's named after him.

Peter A. Allard, a successful lawyer who has been fighting his alma mater on the issue for years, lost his B.C. Supreme Court battle against the university on Thursday. 

"I am disappointed and surprised by the decision," Allard said in a written statement after the decision was posted online Friday.

"I am presently considering my options, including a further appeal."

The dispute began shortly after Allard made a historic $30-million donation to UBC in 2014 on a number of conditions. One of those conditions said degree certificates granted by the Faculty of Law would have Allard's name printed somewhere on the parchment. 

But not all degrees from the Peter A. Allard School of Law are granted by the Faculty of Law. Higher level graduate degrees come from a different division: the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Allard didn't know that at the time.

The university began printing degrees from its lower-level Juris Doctor (JD) program with Allard's name after the donation was made, but Allard contacted the school in 2016 after noticing his name missing from higher-level graduate degrees, like masters of laws and PhDs.

Court documents said he was "stunned" when he realized the faculty detail.

The Allard Hall building at the University of British Columbia. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

'Reasonable' request denied

He asked UBC to start adding a "reasonable" reference to his name on graduate certificates, but it declined, saying it was honouring its end of the agreement as it had been written.

After a fruitless period of back-and-forth and a blunt letter from UBC President Santa J. Ono, Allard took the issue to the B.C. International Commercial Arbitration Centre in 2017.

He lost. An arbitrator who reviewed the agreement found the school wasn't required to add Allard's name to degrees issued by faculties other than the Faculty of Law.

Allard's B.C. Supreme Court petition, filed in 2019, sought the chance to appeal the arbitration dismissal on the grounds that the arbitrator had erred in law and misinterpreted the agreement's meaning of "degree certificates."

Portraits of Peter A. Allard inside Allard Hall. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Justice Karen Douglas dismissed Allard's application. In her decision posted Friday, she found the arbitrator had interpreted the agreement properly in his role.

A lawyer for UBC said in a statement Friday the school was "appreciative" of the court's dismissal. Hubert Lai said the arbitrator's original decision "upheld UBC's longtime understanding" of the 2014 agreement.

"We continue to be grateful for Mr. Allard's generous support and the positive impact it has had for law students and faculty over the years."

Allard's name has become synonymous with UBC law. The law school itself is named in Allard's honour, its main building is called Allard Hall and the prestigious Allard Prize for International Integrity was administered at the school for years.

About the Author

Rhianna Schmunk is a staff writer for CBC News. She is based in Vancouver with a focus on justice and the courts. You can reach her on Twitter @rhiannaschmunk or by email at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca.

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