Niagara College held a special ceremony today to mark the largest personal gift in its history.
Eva Mary Lewis, a school teacher raised in Welland who had family ties to Niagara College, left $2.6 million to the college when she passed away in 2013 at the age of 99. The contribution will support the Achieving Dreams Campaign, which is raising funds for Niagara College’s Capital Vision campus redevelopment projects, scholarships and bursaries, and equipment and learning resources.
The bequest was in addition to Lewis’s almost $500,000 in contributions to Niagara College between 2000-2008 to support scholarships, bursaries and the Welland Campus library.
To mark Lewis’s remarkable generosity, Niagara College officially named the hub of the Welland Campus the Eva M. Lewis Library and Learning Commons. Through Capital Vision projects, these spaces will be transformed to create a more integrated, vibrant learning hub with enhanced learning support services to help students achieve success.
“Eva Lewis was a remarkable individual who was very passionate about the important role that education can play in a person’s life,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson. “Literally, generations of students will benefit from her remarkable generosity. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate Eva’s legacy than to have the heart of this campus named in her honour.”
Lewis’ contributions to Niagara College began in 2000 when she gave a gift of $294,037 to Niagara College to establish the Ellen and Patricia Lewis Memorial Scholarship in memory of her nieces, both of whom studied at Niagara College, and both of whom passed away relatively early in life due to illness. Three Ellen and Patricia Lewis Memorial Scholarships are awarded annually.
In 2004 Lewis and her sister, Helen, contributed $170,790 – which was matched by the provincial government for a total of $342,112 – to establish the Eva Mary and Helen Katherine Lewis Bursary, through which 15 bursaries are awarded annually.
To date, almost 250 students have benefitted from the Lewis scholarships and bursaries.
“This award not only helped me focus on school without stressing or having to work longer hours, but also pushed me to work harder in school,” said Shane McLeod, a second-year student in Niagara College’s Community and Justice Services program. “I am very thankful for Eva Lewis’s generous contribution to Niagara College, and feel it is very important that students recognize the impact donors like her can have on our education. She has made a tremendous impact on my education which I am forever grateful.”
Lewis’s $33,816 contribution to the College’s Building Futures Campaign in 2008 supported the expansion and relocation of the Welland Campus library.
“Eva was a very compassionate woman. She was very independent and very committed to education. She’d be very happy that things are happening this way – but she’d be embarrassed by the attention,” said Marta Voege, Lewis’s cousin. “I’m proud that her name and Helen’s name and the family name is there, but I’m not as gratified about that as having known her. She really had an impact on everybody.”
The Achieving Dreams Campaign is raising funds to support Niagara College’s Capital Vision campus redevelopment plan, as well as instructional equipment, scholarships and bursaries, and study abroad and leadership development opportunities. To learn more or to contribute, visit www.niagaracollege.ca/donate.
Niagara College offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs at campuses in Welland, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Niagara Falls; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Continuing Education courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit NiagaraCollege.ca.
Note to editors: Photo attached: Left to right, Niagara College Student Administrative Council president Shane Malcolm; Marta Voege, cousin of donor Eva Lewis; and Niagara College president Dan Patterson unveil plans for the Eva M. Lewis Library and Learning Commons at the Welland Campus.
A video tribute shown at today’s announcement is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_3BsIN6y2Y
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About Eva Lewis
Born in Sudbury in 1914, Lewis was a first-generation Canadian whose parents emigrated from Ukraine. As a child she lived in Dain City and she studied to be a seamstress before attending teacher’s college. She began her teaching career in Cornwall, ON, before moving to Toronto, where she taught home economics at Danforth Technical School and Bickford Park School. An avid gardener who travelled extensively, Lewis retired to Port Colborne, where she passed away in 2013.