Project poses funding challenge

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By Connie Persechini

The province’s pledge to fund three new campus buildings comes with a tough condition—Ryerson must supplement the government money with millions in private donations.

The burden to find the money falls on Ryerson’s newest executive, chief development officer Gordon Cressy.

Cressy, who has been working at the school since August, is a veteran fundraiser. As president of the United Way in 1987, he raised $35-million in what was then Canada’s largest fundraising effort.

Although Toronto media reported Ryerson needs to raise $44-million, Cressy said the school’s land is considered part of that sum. But the school still needs more than $30-million before groundbreaking can begin, he said—$18.9-million to fund the centre for computing and engineering, $6-million for a graphic communications management facility and $6.3-million for a community health studies building shared with George Brown College.

Fundraising is still in the early stages, Cressy said.

But schools that applied for SuperBuild grants should already have pledges secured from private sector donors, said Dave Ross, spokesman for the ministry of training, colleges and universities. “It should now just be a matter of collecting the money.”

Waclaw Dajnowiec, a senior research associate for the office of university planning who helped with Ryerson’s building proposals, said the school had to show the government it could get enough money. “We had to prove it with letters of support from the private sector.”

But Cressy said Ryerson doesn’t actually have letters pledging donations. “Really, the only concrete [commitment] was from the graphics industry,” he said. The government trusts Ryerson to raise the rest of the money, Cressy said, partly because of his record of fundraising at other institutions.

“If anyone doesn’t know Gord Cressy,” Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse joked at a press conference last Tuesday, “you will know him soon because he’ll be looking for money.”

The school won’t hesitate to name building, classrooms or other facilities after major donors, Cressy said.

“Three to four years from now, we want to make sure that we have space for all students.”

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