The University of Calgary broke ground on the first building to be completed under the $1.5 billion capital expansion plan Wed., Sept. 19.
Dr. Henry Fok Ying Tung, a respected philanthropist and entrepreneur from Hong Kong, donated $2 million to create a new residence building for international students.
“Our biggest alumni outside of North America is in Hong Kong,” said U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten. “They are a very active group. Dr. Fok has a long history with the Calgary community.”
With the help of a friend living in Calgary, Dr. Fok started the Calgary Canadian and Chinese Education Foundation to encourage cultural and educational exchanges. Dr. Fok has also donated to other Calgary organizations, including the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre.
At the ground breaking ceremony Dr. Fok was represented by his son, Ian Fok, an active board member of many universities in China. Ian Fok himself studied in Canada at the University of British Columbia.
“[My father] was very impressed with Calgary, the fastest growing city in Canada and tons of energy,” said Ian Fok. “[He] thought it was a good idea for more international housing, to encourage more exchanges. Especially now a lot of universities have exchange programs. An international experience is more and more important. The world is now one small village. You can’t stay in one place, the world has changed.”
The donation will not cover the entire cost of the building, but will provide important seed capital needed to move the project forward, noted Weingarten.
“[The university] has to put it up,” said Weingarten. “It will cost over $20 million to build and that’s not including the costs to maintain it, sustain it and keep it a high quality residence.”
In addition to housing international students and visiting scholars, half of the beds in the new residence will be available for domestic students.
“We are thinking about building more residential space because there is a huge demand,” said Weingarten.
The building is planned to open in fall of 2008 and will be located in what is currently the parking lot between the Rozsa Centre and the Dining Centre.
“It will create a new street space on campus,” said head architect Barry Sampson. “The idea is that all of the building is used to activate existing spaces–a building that makes everything around it better. “
“We want to make the heart of campus a more accessible space. Right now everyone disappears inside buildings,” he said.
Plans include a ground-floor convenience store, cafe and atrium. Residence Services will also be moved to the new building.