In today walks tomorrow

Everyone of a certain age can tell you exactly where they were when they heard that John F. Kennedy had been shot. I can also tell you where I was on October 23, 2000 when I heard that Mike Lazaridis had donated $100 million to launch the Perimeter Institute. Not only was it the largest philanthropic donation ever made in Canada, the money was given in mid-career, a time when most people are still clambering for the top. As if that weren’t unusual enough, his name isn’t emblazoned on the edifice like some of those deathbed donors who desire a legacy by having an atrium named after them. Plus the money created a place for scientific thought and collaboration that Mike cheerfully admits might not produce anything for fifty years, if then. Mike has since donated another $70 million and encouraged the governments of Ontario and Canada to add a total of $180 million.

The Perimeter Institute is now moving to the next phase which includes almost quadrupling the number of scientists to 300 and bringing in major endowments from the private sector. First to sponsor one of five new chairs is Bank of Montreal with a $4 million gift to be matched by a similar amount from the Institute. This chair, to be named after Sir Isaac Newton, is expected to attract a top scientist.

And all this in aid of finding tomorrow. When Mike Lazaridis was recruiting the first executive director of the Institute, Howard Burton, Mike held out his BlackBerry and said, “Look at this. This is nineteenth-century physics. Imagine what we could do with twentieth-century physics or twenty-first century physics.” Every day moves the world one step closer.

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