When James Stanford, BSc 58, LLD 00, made a $500,000 gift towards the James M. Stanford Graduate Scholarships Endowment at Concordia, he did so for a couple of reasons.
First, he has long been a strong supporter of the university. His tremendous impact has helped strengthen the work of Concordia’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, contribute to the refurbishment of the Loyola Refectory and endow scholarship and bursary funds to assist students in need.
His other motivation was to empower master’s and PhD students to pursue their research without additional financial stress.
“Graduate students need support because they tend to be working on their research projects all year long,” Stanford says. “This endowment allows them to be more focused on their studies and less focused on funding.”
The gift supports graduate students in the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science. Stanford says he naturally concentrates on engineering students since he earned an undergraduate degree in mining from Loyola College — one of Concordia's two founding institutions — and another in petroleum engineering at the University of Alberta.
Looking back, looking ahead
While studying at Loyola, Stanford recalls his appreciation for the comprehensive education he received.
“For instance, you would be hard pressed to find a science faculty at a university in Canada that would include a course on epistemology,” he says. “Loyola’s offerings were much broader and gave us a good sense of the world of the arts.”
Loyola’s progressive program structure would serve Stanford well in his career. As a chief executive in the Canadian petroleum industry, he brought with him experience from as far back as his days as an undergraduate, working in the oil fields of western Canada to put him through school.
As an alumnus, he has championed some of Concordia’s leading endeavours, recognizing the talents of others to push the university to the forefront of higher education in Canada.
Stanford also had much respect for Sir George Williams University, Concordia's other founding institution. His admiration stems from the university’s attention to students who were less likely to further their education at other institutions.
“To a large degree, they focused on older students who were working and going to university on a part-time basis, mostly at night,” he explains. “They also took in international students who would have had a harder time trying to get into other universities because many had to work full-time to support their studies.”
For Stanford, that flexibility and openness to new ideas and ways of thinking remain relevant today. He notes that students need to develop these skills during their studies so they can apply them to their careers later on.
He also encourages students to get involved in enhancing their communities and those around them.
“There are parts of our society that are not quite so fortunate as to have access to higher education,” Stanford says. “University students must recognize that and stay involved. Concordians have a strong history of representation in the community and that involvement must continue as we move forward.”