A 26-year-old real estate entrepreneur has created the university’s largest endowment fund for students in the African Studies program. The fund will support an annual award for students in financial need.
Isaac Olowolafe Jr., who earned an economics degree at U of T Mississauga in 2007, sees the donation both as an expression of gratitude and an investment. He made the gift through Dream Maker Realty, a Toronto-area real estate firm he co-founded with his father, which specializes in educating first-time buyers about using real estate to generate wealth.
“One of the mandates of Dream Maker Realty is to give back to the community – and what better way to give back than by supporting promising students,” says Olowolafe. “I believe that a solid education empowers people to make good decisions in life and effect positive change for their families and community.”
Born in Ibadan, Nigeria, Olowolafe came to Canada at the age of four. He grew up in northwest Toronto, but for high school moved to Woodbridge, Ontario, where he now lives with his wife. He works with his father and role model, Isaac Sr.
Olowolafe chose to support African Studies, in particular, because he believes Africa’s history, culture and contributions to the world are often overlooked. He hopes the award will encourage all students – not just students of African heritage – to learn more about the continent.
Olowolafe has pledged $25,000 to establish the endowment fund. This amount is matched by an equivalent grant from the Ontario Trust for Student Support, a program of the Ontario government. The value of the annual award will be based on investment income from the total endowment of $50,000.
Recent graduates rarely make such large gifts to the university, but Olowolafe says his parents strongly influenced his views on charity. “Giving back was something that was taught to me as a child. You give your tithes at church and try to help individuals who are less fortunate. You don’t have to wait until you’re 40 or 50 to give back.” He hopes other young graduates will follow his example.
The Dream Maker Realty/Olowolafe Family Award will be given by New College to a Canadian student residing in Ontario. Preference will be given to students pursuing a major or specialist program in African Studies.
“This is the largest endowment fund supporting students in the African Studies program at the university,” says program director Thomas Kwasi Tieku. “Having someone so young support us is very encouraging.”