As a Pickering high school student on a field trip to Waterloo in 1979, Ophelia Lazaridis (BMath ’85, Director, Lazaridis Family Foundation) recalls very clearly the one thing that changed the trajectory of her life. She had been planning to study accounting — but on that day, when she looked down through the glass partition at the huge mainframe in the math building’s Red Room, she was hooked on computer science.
“That really, really impressed me and is basically what brought me to Waterloo,” Ophelia recalls. “I was thinking, ‘This University is going to go far.’ I walked in and that was it. The rest is history.”
Today, there are few people who have had a greater impact on the University of Waterloo, both in the physical complexion of the landscape as well as the ecosystem of thought and innovation.
Along with her husband Mike Lazaridis, Ophelia elevates her community quietly, strategically and diligently, allowing the impact of her family’s generous gifts — in excess of $122 million — to make all the noise.
From personal gifts to her own Faculty to joint gifts with her husband — including those in support of high-impact research projects, graduate fellowships, scholarships and research chairs — Lazaridis’ spectacular generosity has helped make Waterloo a world-class destination for research in mathematics, science, and quantum information science, keeping Waterloo at the forefront of scientific discovery and technological innovation.
In addition to her transformational philanthropy, Ophelia has also generously shared her time and strategic guidance through many roles, including 6 years as member of the Board of Governors, serving on both the Governance and the Building and Property committees.
“I believe in Waterloo,” she says. “This town has a history of people with vision — it must be in the water! After graduating I enjoyed my career with EDS (Electronic Data Systems). I believe in this University and I believe in this faculty. Other universities have a longer history but we are the innovator. We are the visionaries.”
Transformational Leadership: Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis
As philanthropic leaders in the University community and the surrounding region, Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis have played key roles in shaping Waterloo into an epicenter of innovation. Their visionary contributions to the University of Waterloo include undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, research chairs, and support for new facilities like the Science Teaching Complex. Most notably, they created the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre — a home for trailblazing research, performed in an interdisciplinary environment unlike any other in the world.
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.
Read more about the Transformers who helped build Waterloo