Tom Higgins still has an old certificate from a University of Waterloo math contest that he wrote when he was a kid. He had it framed and on his wall when he was 14 years old. It meant that much to him.
Now 40 years later, Higgins has donated $525,000 to the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC). The recently retired CEO, president and director of Maple Financial Group Inc., who built a successful career in international finance and trading from his passion for mathematics, wants to encourage more students to explore math and its possibilities.
The generous gift to CEMC will expand enrichment activities in the greater Toronto area. More school visits and an annual math camp for students in early high school will now be possible. Higgins started working on Bay Street as a summer student when he was just 16 years old; using his math skills to solve problems that other people couldn't solve at the time. He went on to study pure math at university and continued working on Bay Street during the summers.
Mathematics develops analytical skills
Higgins says, pursuing math helps students develop analytical thinking and problem-solving skills which are keys to success in careers ranging from finance to law, medicine and beyond.
“So many smart kids go into business because that’s where they think the money is,” says Higgins. “But with math you learn to think – and with that you can create – maybe invent something that will change the world. It's people who invent things that create real wealth for society.”
The CEMC is the largest national youth and educator outreach program promoting mathematics and computer science in Canada. “We’re excited to reach many more high school-aged students at a time when they are starting to make decisions and choices in their studies that will affect their lives and career paths,” says CEMC Director Ian VanderBurgh. “All of these young people will be encouraged to follow their interest in math and to explore the opportunities offered by this exciting field.”