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Photo of Robert Gillespie
Robert Gillespie. Photo courtesy of Robert Gillespie

Helping Students Boost Academic Skills

Donor Robert Gillespie knew from experience how tough it can be to study without help

Robert Gillespie, former chairman and CEO of General Electric Canada, has given $50,000 to U of T Mississauga to support a new program called Promoting Academic Skills for Success (PASS). The PASS program, offered through the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre (named to recognize Gillespie’s past support), is designed to detect and then assist students at risk of academic probation, and to help students who are on academic probation improve their study skills.

Robert: “I had a rather ragged academic background. I attended an engineering co-op program at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, so I was working as an apprentice and going to night school and sometimes day school. I found it tough sledding, partly because of a lack of mentoring, but also because I was isolated from other students. Studying mathematics on my own was not an easy process, and it wasn’t much fun.

“Fast forward 50 years. I’ve lived in Mississauga for most of my life. I found out that U of T Mississauga was looking to establish an academic skills centre that would give students the opportunity to work closely with faculty – and with other students – to bootstrap themselves into a better position, but that it needed funding. That was 10 years ago. I decided to work with them, and it’s been a great success.

“Each time I visit, which is about twice a year, I’m impressed with how committed the students are to improving their situation. But I also appreciate that the faculty apply what they learn from the students to improve the teaching process.”

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