Waterloo Alumnus donates $25 million


by Harleen Kaur Dhillon

Chamath Palihapitiya, a 1999 UW electrical engineering graduate, donated $25 million to the construction of the new Engineering 7 (E7) building. His donation was the largest private donation for the project, and helped to kickstart the Educating the Engineer of the Future campaign, which raised $100 million altogether.

Palihapitiya is grateful for the knowledge and skills that his career at UW gave him, which aided his success in the fields of software engineering, and then venture capitalism.

“Waterloo Engineering provided me with a truly unique education,” Palihapitiya said. “I can link my success in life to the skills and perspective I gained in my time at Waterloo. The next generation of thinkers, leaders and doers will come from Waterloo, and I am happy to help with this journey.”

The new E7 building provides new resources for hands-on learning, innovative research, and teaching. E7 has 3D printing facilities, extensive laboratory space to support research in 5G, blockchain, the Internet of Things and human-machine interaction, and student design and work spaces along with machine shops.

Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of UW, said that E7 will be a place for the world’s best engineers and other professionals to solve the most pressing issues of the time. He also emphasized the vitality of engineers to the economic health of Canada.

“Engineers are essential to the economic health of Canada, and Waterloo engineers are key drivers in areas of innovation, entrepreneurial endeavours, and technological research,” Hamdullahpur said. “Engineering 7 is more than an exceptional building. Engineering 7 will inspire and be home to the best and the brightest engineers, researchers, and leaders in the world as they tackle the most pressing global challenges facing our society.”

Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development also highlighted the potential for E7 to be the birthplace of solutions to the world’s greatest problems, and to reap rewards for the community. The federal government also funded the construction of E7 with a donation of $32.6 million.

“This historic investment by the Government of Canada is a down payment on the government’s vision to position Canada as a global centre for innovation,” Bains said. “This means making Canada a world leader in turning ideas into solutions, science into technologies, skills into jobs and start-up companies into global successes.”

In addition to Engineering 7, the Educating the Engineer of the Future campaign supports a number of initiatives including establishing research chairs in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, as well as increasing graduate scholarships.

“The overwhelming support the Educating the Engineer of the Future campaign received confirmed for us that we have a solid global reputation for excellence and for uniquely preparing students for the future,” Pearl Sullivan, UW Dean of Engineering said. “With the opening of Engineering 7, we continue to transform how students learn to be engineers by giving them even earlier opportunities to experience what it is to be a 21st century engineer, while dramatically expanding facilities for students with entrepreneurial aspirations and supporting bold, new research at the highest levels.”