The Transformers

These generous contributors helped build Waterloo

While Waterloo owes much to the thousands of donors who support campaigns, scholarships, research and programs, a few individuals and groups stand out for the tremendous impact of their giving.

Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre

$122 million+ for the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre, plus two endowed research chairs and graduate fellowships

Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano CentreBoth University of Waterloo alumni, Mike Lazaridis (Hon. DEng ’00) is the founder of Research In Motion (now BlackBerry), while Ophelia Lazaridis (BMath ’85) is active in community leadership and philanthropy.

Mike and Ophelia both have strengthened the University by contributing their passion, experience and insight. The two of them have volunteered extensively, with Mike sitting on numerous committees, serving as member of the Board of Governors, chairing the Board of the Institute for Quantum Computing before becoming the University’s 8th Chancellor from 2003 to 2009 and Chancellor Emeritus. Ophelia also served for two terms (6 years) a member of the Board of Governors, performing critical work on the Building & Property and Governance Committees and the David Johnston International Experience Awards Committee. Combined, these efforts span more than 15 years.

Through both their giving and their leadership, the Lazaridises have ensured that our ambitious goals are seen through to reality. Their extensive volunteer service spans more than 15 years, and includes terms by each of them on our Board of Governors. Beyond our campuses they advocate passionately for Waterloo, drawing highly accomplished researchers and students here to live, learn, and work. We are deeply grateful for these contributions, among the many others that the Lazaridises have made. Their philanthropy truly has transformed the University of Waterloo.

Toby Jenkins Applied Health Research Building

$22.5 million
Toby Jenkins Applied Research Building In 2012, current Chancellor Tom Jenkins (LLD), and urban and regional planning graduate Toby Jenkins (BES ’82) donated Tech Town, a 60,000 square-foot building in David Johnston Research and Technology Park, to the University. Now home to three university research centres, the building is used for health-related research and clinical trials designed to redefine traditional approaches to health research by bringing academics and technologies from across disciplines together with members of the local community.


David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science

David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science 

$25 million+
One of the early investors in Google, David Cheriton (MMath ’74, PhD ’78) is a University of Waterloo alumnus and a professor at Stanford University in California. He is the co-founder of several companies with Sun Microsystems: Granite Systems Inc., which was sold to Cisco Systems; Kealia Inc., which was sold to Sun Microsystems; and Arista Networks Inc.


William M. Tatham Centre for Co-operative Education and Career Action

$4 million, matched by $4.35 million in student contributions
Bill Tatham (BASc ’83, Hon. DEng ’12) graduated from Waterloo’s co-op systems design engineering program. His first company, Janna Systems, started as a basement operation in 1990. After becoming a global leader in CRM software, it was sold to Siebel Systems. Today, Tatham is the founder, director and CEO of NexJ Systems and a strong supporter of Waterloo’s co-op program.

Tatham Centre

J.R. Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall

J.R. Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall$7 million
J.R. (Rod) Coutts (BASc ’64, Hon. DEng ’07), a Waterloo alumnus and donor, graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Past chair of the Waterloo Engineering Campaign, he is a significant benefactor, and is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council. Coutts co-founded Teklogix — a producer of wireless data communications systems for corporations with a mobile workforce in 1967 — and took it public in 1999. In 2003, he co-founded Navcast Inc., which produces marine satellite data receivers.

When every student chips in, a little becomes a lot

Some of the most iconic buildings at Waterloo were built by students.

Gathering places like Federation Hall and important services including Student Health Services and the Student Life Centre are vital parts of campus that exist thanks to student support.

When it comes to student contributions to big capital projects, nothing happens without a referendum. Before construction begins, students are asked whether they support a specific fee per term to help offset construction costs. If they vote yes, it goes ahead. It they vote no, it doesn’t.

And fees are typically not onerous: the Student Life Centre/Physical Activities Complex expansion comes in at $18 per student per term, for example.

“A lot of them are non-academic buildings,” says Federation of Students President Chris Lolas. “You’d have a much more difficult time getting students to pay for a building that’s full of classrooms because they’ll be thinking very clearly, ‘That’s what my tuition is for.’ Students are practical. They’ll say, ‘Look, if I want an expansion to the fitness centre, it’s going to cost me 18 bucks. And you know what? That’s worth it to me.’ ”

Not surprisingly, student-driven plans tend to motivate voting come referendum time.

“A student-driven idea is a really big selling feature when students are deciding if they’re going to vote in a referendum,” Lolas adds. “It’s not administrators coming up with a plan, it’s students pitching the idea and the University is the conduit to making it happen. That really goes to show that students do care about what their experience is like when they’re here.”

Student contributions loom large

  • 1984 - $1.5 million for Federation Hall
  • 1997 - Renovations to Federation Hall ($5 per student per term)
  • Mid 1990s - Student Life Centre expansion #1 Columbia Icefields building (main gym and fieldhouse)
  • Mid 2000s - Student Life Centre expansion #2 Addition to Columbia Icefields
  • 2003 - William M. Tatham Centre ($25 per co-op student per term)
  • 2010 - Health Services Extension ($10 per student per term totalling $7.75 million)
  • 2016 - Student Life Centre and Physical Activities Complex expansion approved, aiming for Fall 2018 opening ($18 per student per term totalling $24 million)

Physical Activities Complex expansion

Fall 2018 Opening—Physical Activities Complex Opening 

Health Services expansion

2010—Health Services Expansion 


“Students are practical. They’ll say, ‘Look, if I want an expansion to the fitness centre, it’s going to cost me 18 bucks. And you know what? That’s worth it to me.'"

CHRIS LOLAS, University of Waterloo Federation of Students President

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