Sudbury·Audio

Family of Laurentian University benefactor still waiting for answers on scholarship money

The granddaughter of a Sudbury businessman who donated money to support student scholarships at Laurentian University in the 1970s is still trying to figure out if the endowment is still there.

Sudbury university's financial insolvency causing significant worry among those who've donated money

Laurentian University announced its financial insolvency on Feb. 1, leaving many members of the school community feeling unsure about the future of the post-secondary school. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

The granddaughter of a Sudbury businessman who donated money to support student scholarships at Laurentian University in the 1970s is still trying to figure out if the endowment is still there.

The university declared financial insolvency at the beginning of February.

Wendy Gordon says Edwards Sudbury Ltd. donated money in memory of her grandfather after his death in the 1970s. Thomas D. Edward was the company's founder and former president. Gordon says as of 2017, documentation from Laurentian showed the endowment totalled $25,000 dollars — the interest from which is put into an annual $1,000 scholarship, awarded to a first-year student enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts, Science or Commerce, and who maintains a minimum 80 per cent average in an Ontario secondary school.

Gordon says she's contacted the university's financial administration office to get answers.

"I wrote to them and said I was concerned and was there anything that they could tell me about the that particular scholarship? And they they responded immediately, saying I was at the top of their list for responding when they knew more. But for now, I could just consult all of the the documents that they'd put online at Laurentian," she said.

"So I got nothing really from the financial administration office. I just had to find out myself what I could."

Gordon says she was able to find out that certain types of donations had apparently been added to the school's operating accounts and that they seem to be unprotected.

"They also said that it wasn't entirely unusual that the university did that — adding the donations to the operating account —  but in the case of Laurentian, these were not monies that had been protected. They never say exactly that it's gone, but they they come close to saying that," she said.

"I'm still not sure whether or not there's any hope that the money that my grandfather gave is in some more protected status, but I kind of don't think so."

Gordon says she's been trying to find the words describe the situation, and considers the matter a betrayal of sorts.

"Everything sounds a little overly dramatic when I when I use the words out loud. The funds were never intended to be underwriting the university operations. They were for the students and they were for, I guess, indirectly supporting the university, but not in such a direct way," she said.

Gordon says she's written to the university again and is still waiting for a response.

Student life continues as normal since Laurentian University declared financial insolvency on Feb. 1. No one from Laurentian University has been made available to CBC News for comment on the situation. (Erik White/CBC)

A CBC email to Laurentian's communications department was not returned.

But on its website in a statement from the university's president, Robert Haché says students come first. He says there will be a number of steps to take to ensure the financial and operational stability of the University.
He says a small group of six senators will represent the university in CCAA mediation.

"There are a large number of stakeholders working together to ensure the future of Laurentian," Haché stated.

"I have every confidence that Laurentian can come together as a community to achieve the necessary changes for our university to not only survive, but thrive."

Ernst and Young appointed to monitor Laurentian's re-structuring is referring inquiries to court documents posted at laurentianu.info.

Laurentian University has hundreds of scholarships, awards and bursaries.

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With files from Kate Rutherford

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