Largest gift in the history of Saint Mary’s University

Dr. David Sobey

Dr. David Sobey

On March 21, more than 515 people in the McNally Auditorium burst into applause when they heard David Sobey announce the largest donation ever to be given to Saint Mary’s University.

There were audible gasps when the octogenarian said the words “$18 million dollars.”

David shared some stories about his father, entrepreneur Frank H. Sobey who started the grocery empire in Stellarton, NS, and the enduring relationship the family has with Saint Mary’s.

“We are excited to see young people from across Canada and around the world bring the skills they learn at Saint Mary’s to their careers and communities for generations,” he said.

Son and former Chancellor Paul Sobey joined his father on stage, along with Frank Sobey of the Sobey Foundation and Michael Medline, President & CEO of Sobeys Inc. and Empire Company Ltd.

“This is the largest gift we have ever made in Atlantic Canada,“ said Paul Sobey. He went on to say that the family has great confidence in “the unrelenting commitment from all the faculty, staff and leadership  to constantly remain focused on their number one priority, the students -  as they strive to support & encourage their future growth and development.”

Julie Toskan, co-founder of MAC Cosmetics and Honorary Doctorate recipient from Saint Mary’s served as emcee for the event. Raymond Sewell, Indigenous Student Advisor, performed “Song for Youth” in honour of the gift that focuses on students and the future.

“I am overwhelmed and inspired by this transformational gift, which will accelerate a deep and profound change in the teaching, research, and practice of business education at the University – in this province - and in Canada,” said Rob Summerby-Murray as he thanked the Sobey family. “This investment will transform business education in the ‘Saint Mary’s way’ - interdisciplinary in nature and with the needs of our community at the heart of what we do. “

The campus had been buzzing in the days leading up to the mysterious announcement, which was kept under wraps to maximize the surprise. School Dean Dr. Harjeet Bhabra drew some laughter from the audience when he said he had to tell curious faculty and staff that the announcement “would be worth the wait.”

For more details, including a photo gallery, news release, and a video of the announcement, visit