Stories of Giving: Lord Strathcona

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Stories of Giving: Lord Strathcona 2016-10-13T13:28:05+00:00

Lord StrathconaLord Strathcona (Donald Smith) Born Donald Alexander Smith, August 6th, 1820 in Scotland, Smith moved to Canada in 1838 and began working for the Hudson’s Bay Company, eventually being promoted to the highest position in the company — Chief Commissioner. In this influential role, Smith became engaged in many other business and political ventures, including helping to make Canada one nation through the visionary plan of a railway system connecting the entire country. As the co-founder of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, Smith spearheaded the building of the trans-Canada railroad and drove the last spike in 1885.
Lord Strathcona driving the last spike for the CPR
In recognition of his many contributions to Canada, Smith was made Lord Strathcona in 1897. In that role, he became one of the greatest philanthropists of the early 20th Century, giving away more than $7.5 million for charitable work. His generous donations – what we would call planned gifts today – are too many to enumerate here, but included:

  • helping to establish and endow the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal;
  • providing scholarships for the first women to study at McGill University;
  • providing funds to establish the scouting movement and cadet movement in Canada;
  • establishing The Strathcona Trust, which enabled schools across Canada to introduce physical education programs into their curriculum;
  • building YMCA facilities in provinces across Canada;
  • providing an anonymous donation of a pipe organ for his home congregation of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Montreal, which later merged with St. Andrew’s Church to become The Church of St. Andrew’s and St. Paul’s;
  • becoming the principal benefactor for Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, who founded missions in Newfoundland and Labrador, and providing two steam ships which Grenfell used as mission hospitals;
  • and leaving generous bequests to Presbyterian College and McGill University in Montreal.

There is hardly a Canadian today who has not benefited in some way from Lord Strathcona’s vision and generosity.