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Elizabeth Wirth, Montreal philanthropist, gives McGill University $7.5M gift

04/30/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 08/08/2015 08:59 EDT
Montreal business woman, philanthropist and opera lover Elizabeth Wirth has given $7.5 million to McGill University — a sum that will provide endowed support for new student programs at the Schulich School of Music.

In recognition of this and several previous gifts from Wirth, McGill is naming the modern addition to its music building on Sherbrooke Street West in her honour.

The gift and the renaming of the building were announced Thursday, at a special event attended by the Minister of Culture and Communications Hélène David, who praised Wirth's donation as a "perfect example of the type of patronage [the government] hopes to encourage with a view to advancing arts and culture in Quebec."

​Wirth's gift will support new awards for outstanding students in undergraduate, graduate and diploma programs, a new Student Initiatives Fund, and an annual $25,000 prize to be awarded annually to a voice student who demonstrates exceptional skill and artistry.

Wirth has supported and championed an array of initiatives, including scholarships and fellowships, and the Schulich School of Music's renowned opera program.

The program benefits from the exceptional rehearsal and performance environment of the Wirth Opera Studio, renovated several years ago thanks to a gift from Wirth and her late father, Manfred.

In 2013, Wirth spearheaded a highly-successful $1.3 million fundraising campaign to transform the facilities adjacent to the School's state-of-the-art Music Multimedia Room, allowing students to produce outstanding recordings and conduct cutting-edge research into sound. She has since matched contributions from more than 50 donors.

"We are so fortunate to benefit from the unwavering support of generous donors like Elizabeth Wirth," said Sean Ferguson, Dean of the Schulich School of Music.

"Thanks to them the Schulich School is able to offer its students top-notch teaching and research programs, and state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. It is through their generosity that we are able to attract students to Montreal from all over the world and offer them an unparalleled music education."

Wirth says she enjoys supporting such an exceptional school.

"The Schulich School of Music is a worldwide leader in music training and research, and our students are the best — amazingly talented yet unpretentious, hardworking and modest. To keep our place as one of the top music schools in the world, we continually work to create an atmosphere that attracts not only exceptional students, but also outstanding professors and teachers from all over the world, whose presence in turn encourages eager young musicians to attend McGill," said Wirth.

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