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‘A big league contribution’
When Stan Bharti was offered a job at Falconbridge in 1981, he had no idea where Sudbury was.The Indian immigrant had been living in Vancouver with his family, where he was working as an engineer.
Falconbridge, now owned by Xstrata, had offered him a $21,000-a-year salary, a $3,000-a-year raise from his salary in Vancouver. His co-workers regaled him with stories of “moon country,” as Sudbury was known at the time.
“My wife and I and our two kids jumped in the car and drove to Sudbury for four days,” said Bharti, who went on to live in the city for more than 15 years. When their furniture arrived at their new home, the driver wanted a $2,000 certified cheque. “The problem was, I didn’t have $2,000,” he said.
“I called the human resources department at Falconbridge, and they said they needed to see the receipt first. Finally, I called my new boss. He said, ‘I’ll lend you the money.’ That’s our beginning in Sudbury.”
Bharti went on to start an engineering contracting company called BLM Service Group with the late Sudbury businessman Risto Laamanen in the late 1980s.
He is now the chairman and CEO of Forbes & Manhattan, a Toronto-based private merchant bank with a global focus on resource-based sectors.
Bharti recently decided to give back to the Sudbury community. He has donated $10 million to Laurentian University’s School of Engineering.
In honour of his donation, the engineering school was renamed the Bharti School of Engineering. The donation brings Laurentian’s Next 50 campaign to $48.6 million, close to its $50 million goal.
“I generally don’t believe in big donations,” Bharti told the crowd gathered at Laurentian’s alumni hall for the donation announcement Nov. 24.
“But I think in this case I did it for Laurentian, but also for Sudbury. We spent 15 great years here. We love this community.”
Bharti said if the university invests the money well, they should be able to earn about $1 million in interest per year to spend on the engineering department.
He said he was originally planning to donate the money to the university’s business school.
“Then somebody said ‘Stan, you’re an engineer. What are you doing with a business school?’” he said. “I said ‘That’s right, we should support engineers.’”
Ramesh Subramanian, director of the school of engineering, said the donation is “just unbelievable.”
He said he hopes to use the funds to increase student scholarships, thereby attracting the best engineering students, to recruit top-notch professors, “and upgrading labs to make them world-class.”
“The students are going to design competitions now, and to do that, the students have to have the most modern labs and software,” Subramanian said. “A lot of the money is going to go there.”
Sean Turcotte, a fourth-year mining engineering student, also said he was excited about the donation.
“When we heard about this gift, it was through the grapevine,” he said. “Just, wow. I can’t believe how crazy this is. The things that can happen with this money, and the difference it can make for us, is just unreal. It will just reinforce that Laurentian University is the premiere mining school.”
Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux said the donation will continue to influence the school of engineering “for decades to come.”
“It will ensure that this university can truly make its mark in the world as a centre of excellence in the engineering sciences,” Giroux said.
Michael Atkins, president of Northern Ontario Business, who is also the vice-chair of Laurentian’s board of governors, said the donation will “take the university to another place.”
“It’s how you see yourself,” he said.
“Do you play in the big leagues, or not? This is a big league contribution. It demonstrates how important Laurentian is in the mining engineering world. We’re at the top, and we deserve to be at the top.”