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Historic gift for African Studies and Caribbean Studies programs at Ƶ

New College exterior

(photo by Diana Tyszko)

A milestone investment in the African Studies Centre and the Centre for Caribbean Studies at the Ƶ will help attract top experts in the field, energize the next generation of researchers and engage students in advanced scholarship.

The $5-million donation from alumnus Richard Rooney, which will be matched by funds from the Faculty of Arts & Science, will create an endowed professorship at each centre and two prestigious postdoctoral fellowships, energizing the next generation of African Studies and Caribbean Studies scholars. 

“We are deeply grateful to Richard Rooney for his visionary gift to the Ƶ,” said U of T President Meric Gertler. “This landmark benefaction will further advance U of T’s leadership in African Studies and Caribbean Studies.”

Melanie Woodin, dean of U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science, said the gift will elevate the centres to new heights as sites of scholarly excellence and transdisciplinary dialogue.

“The research, teaching and collaboration happening at these two centres are indispensable for making sense of the 21st century, providing learners with the tools they need to become engaged citizens, anchored by a rich understanding of the world today,” Woodin said.

Recognized as one of the best undergraduate programs of its kind in North America, the African Studies Centre is a vibrant social and cultural hub of academic excellence, helping students develop a deeper understanding of African societies, cultures and histories through an interdisciplinary lens. 

The Centre for Caribbean Studies, meanwhile, brings together academics and learners with shared commitments to Caribbean Studies as an area of interdisciplinary focus for research, teaching, learning and community engagement – and offers the only program in Canada with degrees specifically dedicated to the study of the Caribbean and its people. 

Both programs originated at New College, where long-time supporter and volunteer Rooney studied while earning his bachelor of arts degree in 1977.

 “The education I received at New College was a springboard for my success,” said Rooney, who is vice-chair and co-founder of Burgundy Asset Management Ltd. “It’s an honour for me to be able to give back to a place that was so pivotal in my life and to support academic programs that can help us imagine a more equitable and just society.”

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