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Terrence Donnelly’s “Nobel Factory”

$8-million gift will create post-genomic research centre

Toronto philanthropist Terrence Donnelly (LLD 2003) knows that promoting good health requires hard work, not miracles – and he believes in supporting that work. “I believe in helping people to live free from disease, and the only way to achieve that is through research,” he says.

In June, Donnelly announced a donation of $8 million to create a cutting-edge post-genomic research centre at U of T. In recognition of this gift, which complements his earlier $5-million donation, the new facility will be named the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (CCBR). Slated for completion in 2005, the CCBR will bring together U of T’s finest researchers from the faculties of medicine, pharmacy, and applied science and engineering to investigate the links between genes and disease. The CCBR will also serve as a classroom, providing hands-on training for about 300 students and 100 post-doctoral fellows.

Although Donnelly himself has never spent a night in hospital, his compassion for those who haven’t been as fortunate has turned the retired lawyer and entrepreneur into a renowned health-care philanthropist. “I can appreciate that some people, through no fault of their own, simply do not enjoy perfect health,” he says. “And if you don’t, then nothing else really matters – success, family, fortune.”

At a June luncheon celebrating his donation, Donnelly encouraged other donors to help make this state-of-the-art facility a true “Nobel factory,” where research is quickly translated into remedy. “The centre will demonstrate to everyone the shrinking distance between the lab bench and the bedside of the seriously ill patient in the hospital,” he said. “For me and for others, the CCBR is a chance to be in on the ground floor of a facility that will be at the forefront of medical research for the next 100 years.”

President Robert Birgeneau lauded Donnelly for his generosity and vision. “Terrence Donnelly has the foresight to realize that genetic research is the key to improvements in patient health care,” he said. “He also has the imagination to understand the value of a facility that fosters the creativity and groundbreaking interdisciplinary work that advances such research.”

A graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, Donnelly co-founded the firm Donnelly & Daigneault, where he practised until 1995. During that time, he handled legal work for Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of the KFC food empire. Donnelly invested in KFC franchises and later became involved with the Colonel Harland Sanders Charitable Organization, which supports children’s health and hospitals in Canada.

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