COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Speeches and official ceremonies take place amid the university colours during the grand opening of Brandon University’s Healthy Living Centre in March 2014, although the facility actually opened its doors to students and the community 13 months earlier.
A group of Brandon University alumni is questioning why the Richardson Gymnasium in the new Healthy Living Centre is not the Robertson Gymnasium.
In fact, the group — they call themselves the "Apostles" — wants to know why nothing at the university has been named after Joseph Robertson. The 1939 graduate donated the majority of his estate to the university.
The bequest was made in honour of his brother Arthur and sister Kathleen, who also graduated from what was then Brandon College.
"It seems rather unethical that they have not formally acknowledged the $5-million donation," alumnus Mike Yakimishyn said.
The Brandon Sun reported in May 2008 that "the largest private donation ever given to Brandon University has virtually assured the construction of the university’s planned Healthy Living Centre will begin next spring."
The article reported that Robertson had left more than $4 million to the university when he died. At the time, the university said they would be earmarking at least $2 million to the Healthy Living Centre project.
On Monday, Scott Lamont, BU’s vice-president of administration and finance, confirmed that the entire bequest was allocated by the university to the Healthy Living Centre project.
"It was left to the university for any purposes the university saw fit," Lamont said. "There was no mention in his will that something should be named after any of the three."
Robertson’s bequest came in addition to a previous donation of $500,000 made in December 2007.
A Brandon Sun article in January 2008 reported that the donation had been made to the university’s fitness facility project and brought the total private donations to $1.7 million.
This is similar to the 2008 annual report put out by the Brandon University Foundation saying that Robertson contributed money to the Healthy Living Centre and then left his estate to the university when he died.
Lamont disputes this, saying that the $500,000 was an "undesignated donation" that the university chose to put towards the Healthy Living Centre.
Robertson’s surviving family members were unable to be found for comment.
Regardless of what the donation was made for, the Apostles continue to disagree with the university’s decision.
"I think that they should be giving credit where credit is due," Yakimishyn said.
The university announced the naming of Richardson Gymnasium following "the largest single private donation to date to the Healthy Living Centre" from the Richardson Foundation — which is only accurate if Robertson’s donations are considered undesignated.
The Richardson donation included a lump sum of $250,000 followed by a pledge to match up to another $250,000 of fundraised money in 2014.
"When we officially began the campaign for the centre in 2012, we went through and decided what amount would result in what names," BU president Deborah Poff said. "Donations between $500,000 and $750,000 would have the gymnasium named for them."
The Apostles have made clear they’re not questioning the generosity of the Richardson Foundation and the Richardson family being given credit for their donation.
"If not the gymnasium, something else should be named for (Robertson’s) large donation," Yakimishyn said.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 23, 2014