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Major donor energizes climate-change research with gift to Concordia and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

$1 million from Miriam Roland establishes novel sustainability pilot projects
January 23, 2023
By Ian Harrison, BComm 01

Concordia and Ben Gurion University Concordia and Israel's Ben Gurion University (right) are equal beneficiaries of a $1-million gift from Miriam Roland.

A generous gift from one of Concordia’s most ardent champions will support a new partnership between Concordia and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Be’er Sheva, Israel.

The $1-million gift from major donor Miriam Roland, LLD 18, to be equally shared by both institutions, will fund sustainability pilot projects led jointly by Concordia’s Next-Generation Cities Institute and Ben-Gurion University’s Goldman Sonnenfeldt School for Sustainability and Climate Change.

VIEW PHOTOS: Concordia celebrated the new gift at a ceremony on January 23.

Portrait of older lady with glasses Long-time donor Miriam Roland says of her latest gift: “I think we live on a beautiful planet, and I would like to contribute to solutions that help us live comfortably without imperilling the lives of others.”

“We are extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated and engaged supporter as Miriam Roland,” says Concordia President Graham Carr. “Concordia’s sustainability objectives include more support for research that targets the effects of climate change. We are eager to pursue this new collaboration with Ben-Gurion University, thanks to a gift that is focused on tackling a critical United Nations Sustainable Development Goal — how to make urban spaces more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

With Concordia and Ben-Gurion University located in vastly different climates and cultural environments, the partnership that Roland has funded will bridge a range of experience on urban sustainability, zero-carbon buildings, the water-energy-food nexus and more.

The two institutions will take part in workshops and knowledge exchanges, “living-lab” experimentations and collaborations with campus-adjacent neighbourhoods, all in an effort to encourage more sustainable approaches to urban development.

“Designed to consolidate nature and technology to address some of the world’s largest environmental threats, our School of Sustainability and Climate Change is based on five decades of accumulated knowledge and research,” says Daniel Chamovitz, President of Ben-Gurion University.

“We are extremely grateful for this remarkable gift from Miriam Roland that will facilitate a wonderful partnership with Concordia University and empower both of our institutions to purposively contribute to a more sustainable future.”

Adds Peggi Cohen-Rabinovitch, president of Ben-Gurion University Canada, Montreal chapter: “We are so grateful to Miriam Roland for her incredible dedication to both Ben-Gurion University and Concordia. This research will further strengthen the decades-long relationship between Montreal and Be’er Sheva.”

‘I would like to contribute to solutions’

Roland, who served on Concordia’s Board of Governors from 1991 to 2004, notes that Concordia and Ben-Gurion University have much in common. Both institutions were founded around the same time, have established bold objectives for growth and have impressive research footprints relative to size.

“I am also deeply concerned about the kind of world future generations will inherit,” says Roland, 92, who holds degrees from Stanford University and the Alfred Adler Institute of Chicago (now Adler University). “I think we live on a beautiful planet, and I would like to contribute to solutions that help us live comfortably without imperilling the lives of others.”

Portrait of a woman with wavy gray hair, wearing a red-print blouse “The partnership [Miriam Roland] has enabled will allow us to advance field work with real-world relevance,” says Ursula Eicker, founder and co-director of Concordia’s Next-Generation Cities Institute.

Ursula Eicker, founder and co-director of the Next-Generation Cities Institute, and Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Communities and Cities, remarks that while effective solutions to climate change exist, they often reside in the theoretical. The challenge for researchers, she says, is to deliver proofs of concept that demonstrate feasibility and influence significant stakeholders, such as industry and regional and national governments, to act.

“This is what is so powerful about Miriam’s gift,” adds Eicker. “The partnership she has enabled with Ben-Gurion University will allow us to advance field work with real-world relevance and utility. In fact, we will apply findings from our research on the design and operation of zero-carbon buildings not only to our own campuses, but also to projects in the city that aim for sustainability and affordability as a result of this new collaboration.”

With commitments that total close to $4 million, Miriam Roland has been one of the Campaign for Concordia’s most avid supporters, says Paul Chesser, BA 94, GrDip 97, vice-president of Advancement.

“When you look at what Miriam has funded, her impact at the university is undeniable,” he adds. “From her tremendous support for graduate fellowships to bursary funds and innovation projects at District 3 Innovation Hub, she has gone above and beyond to embolden Concordia’s students, researchers and faculty members. Through her gift to Concordia and Ben-Gurion University, Miriam has further inspired breakthroughs and innovations that have the potential to benefit society as a whole.”

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