Victor and Mona Dahdaleh invest $15 million into StFX’s Institute for Innovation in Health

Press Release

April 1st, 2023

When the announcement came, it received a standing ovation and loud, long applause, a thunderous celebration to mark good news.

A new institute at StFX targeted at promoting healthy populations in rural Nova Scotia has received a $15 million gift from Dr. Victor and Mona Dahdaleh, through the Victor Dahdaleh Foundation. It is the largest single private donation in StFX’s history.

The gift will be used to help create the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Hall, which will house the Victor and Mona Dahdaleh Institute for Innovation in Health, a much-anticipated incubator for health research on the StFX campus expected to be transformational for the region and beyond.

The announcement was made April 1, 2023 during a Night for the Blue and White, a gala evening at the Halifax Convention Centre, that included presentations from StFX faculty and students on outstanding health research happening on campus during an event highlighted by an inspiring keynote from Marnie McBean, three-time Olympic champion and Canada’s most successful summer Olympic athlete.

“This is a very special night for StFX. It is the night on which the dream of a building, the Institute for Innovation in Health will be realized,” StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin said.

“This is the single largest gift ever made to StFX by a private donor, and we could not be more grateful.”

Mona and Dr. Victor Dahdaleh

“This new institute at StFX will be led by world class researchers who conduct critical work in promoting healthy populations. I’m excited that this work will have a broad impact on health in rural areas of Nova Scotia, Canada, and beyond,” said Dr. Dahdaleh.

Dr. Dahdaleh took audience members back to Dec. 5, 2015, when he received an honorary degree from StFX and had opportunity to address StFX graduates. He remembered telling the students how a degree from StFX will give them an opportunity to make a difference in the world.

“That was a deeply personal message,” he said, telling the audience at the heart of what they have tried to do at the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Charitable Foundation is to be deeply committed to education, health care and social justice.

Dr. Dahdaleh also mentioned two StFX alumni, loyal friends, without whom he wouldn’t be here this evening, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney ’59, 18th Prime Minister of Canada, and the Hon. Frank McKenna ’70, former New Brunswick Premier and Deputy Chair of TD Bank Financial Group, who always champion StFX. He said he was also inspired by the Nova Scotia Government who is facing the challenge of health care head on—and who just a few weeks ago, in March 2023, announced its commitment of $37.4 million to the new institute, which will help improve the health of rural Nova Scotians by focusing on the root causes of poor health and related issues.

StFX, Dr. Dahdaleh said, has rich expertise and an amazing concentration of faculty and students working in health care, an obvious society need, and it also has the support of the provincial and federal governments.

NOT JUST A BUILDING

Dr. Andy Hakin

Dr. Hakin said the new institute will not just be a building. It will be a place where faculty, students, and health practitioners come together to improve the health and wellness of Nova Scotians. It is a place in which students will be prepared for the step into the health workforce with the latest thinking to make to make a difference for all.

“This will benefit our society,” he said.

“We will find solutions. We will move forward.”

Minister of Health and Wellness and Antigonish MLA Michelle Thompson ’06 said StFX alumni can be proud of their alma mater, which was ready to answer the government’s call to help provide health care solutions. “StFX was ready. They had a proposal. They stepped up.”

The Institute for Innovation in Health will look at ways to improve health promotion and mental health and wellness in rural communities, including chronic disease prevention and management, rehabilitation, and aging in place. It will also be headquarters to the National Collaborating Centre for the Determinants of Health at StFX, one of six national Public Health Agency of Canada Centres of Excellence.

The federal government also contributed in 2017, providing $8 million for the Xaverian Commons project, in which the institute is a key component.

PROVIDING OPPORTUNITY

StFX has already benefited from Dr. Dahdaleh’s philanthropy with his support for the Brian Mulroney Institute for Government. His generosity has provided opportunities at StFX for underrepresented students including Indigenous Canadian and African Nova Scotian students.

The institute at StFX will join the Dahdaleh’s two other Canadian flagship institutes, the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine at McGill University, and the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University. Last year, the University of Cambridge opened the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Heart and Lung Research Institute.

“Tonight is a night for all Nova Scotians to celebrate,” StFX Board of Governors Chair Dennis Flood ‘80 said. “For over three decades, Dr. Dahdaleh’s philanthropic work has changed the lives of thousands of young people being educated at some of the most prestigious universities across Canada and the United Kingdom. It speaks volumes that he has chosen to include and support StFX and the residents of this great province in his philanthropy.”

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Leading a toast to the Dahdalehs, Mr. McKenna noted that Victor and Mona Dahdaleh profoundly believe in improving humanity.

Why did they decide to invest in StFX, he asked? “Like a lot of us, when he was introduced to StFX, he was smitten. It was love at first sight,” Mr. McKenna said.

“Because what Victor and Mona came to understand is StFX is more than a campus. It is more than ring. It is an idea.”

It’s a sanctuary, a place of refuge, a crucible for social change, a role model for the rest of the world on how to live your best place, a place of humanity all to rare in this troubled world, he said. It’s an institute that continues to inspire.

“I know I speak for all Xaverians when I say: thank you, Victor and Mona. Thank you.”

INTRODUCTION TO HEALTH RESEARCH, HISTORY

The evening provided an innovative introduction to StFX and its past, present, and future contributions to health care. Guests proceeded through a reception area with exhibits exploring StFX’s contributions to health, stretching back over a century to the establishment of the Sisters of St. Martha in 1897 to provide domestic and pastoral care for StFX and soon expanded into nursing and social work, running hospitals, orphanages, and seniors’ homes, through to StFX’s WWI hospital unit to today’s critical research.

Six StFX faculty—Drs. Britney Benoit, Dan Kane, Katie Aubrecht, Kara Thompson, Derrick Lee, and Marcia English—and several students were on hand to speak about their work in health, spanning disciplines from nursing to human kinetics, sociology, psychology, mathematics and statistics, and human nutrition.

Melissa Hardy ’13 and Dr. Allison McGlashan ’12, StFX graduates who both entered the health field and returned to the Antigonish area to practice, served as emcees.

IMAGINING WHAT CAN BE

During his remarks, Dr. Hakin spoke of how the institute is so much more than a building. It is about the people who work, learn and study there, people taking bold steps and imagining what can be.

StFX currently has over 75 faculty conducting research in health-related fields. Much of it concerns the social determinants of health and is targeted at reducing Nova Scotians’ need for acute medical care. Additionally, about 40 per cent of StFX students are enrolled in health-oriented disciplines.

Dr. Hakin said we’ve called this evening A Night for the Blue and White in a nod to the ways in which StFX and Nova Scotia’s missions intertwine, in using our abilities for broader purposes.

For approximately 175 years, StFX has continued to be a place for the people, a university created from a community’s desire to learn and be educated to improve the quality of their lives.

He also thanked the many people involved in this project, including the provincial and federal governments, previous StFX presidents who had the foresight to plan out the Xaverian Commons, and alumni like Mr. Mulroney and Mr. McKenna whose efforts on behalf of StFX have been extraordinary.

IHT4

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