Student donates surprise windfall to scholarship fund

Gerry Sullivan, a former Board of Governors member and chemical engineering professor at University of Waterloo, started an entrance scholarship for students from his former high school to study math, engineering or science at Waterloo. His philanthropy appears to be contagious.

By Tenillle Bonguore

Communications & Public Affairs

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Gerry Sullivan and Gerry LeeOne of the many lessons University of Waterloo student Jamie Lee learned from his hardworking parents is that money doesn’t come for free.

Except sometimes, it does. This spring, Lee was one of three winners to pick up $5,000 in a campus giveaway.

But instead of having the maddest spring break on record, Lee turned around and gave half of it away in a $2,500 donation to the high school scholarship he won just a few years earlier.

The Sullivan Entrance Scholarship was launched 30 years ago by Gerry Sullivan, a former chemical engineering faculty member and University of Waterloo Board of Governors member who is now president and CEO of Priiva Consulting Corp. and a member of the Accelerator Centre board of directors.

Sullivan wanted to encourage students from his old high school — Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School in Brantford, Ont. — to study math, engineering or science at Waterloo.

Each year, he meets the scholarship winner. From the start, Lee impressed him with his humility, dedication and decency. With this donation, the fourth-year Math and Accounting student has impressed Sullivan all over again.

“Jamie is not rich, and yet he gives this back. That’s wonderful. I was shocked,” Sullivan said. “He’s a real down-to-earth guy. He’s so unassuming and humble.”

Lee doesn’t see his move as exceptional. “I don’t have a complex story behind it,” he said. “I just wanted to thank Gerry for everything he’s done for me.”

Lee has three siblings, all of them either at university or recently finished. The expense has been a struggle for his family, so the Sullivan scholarship was a great help.

The boost was more than financial, though. “The [high] school is not very big,” Lee said. “Not many students go on to post-secondary school. Gerry's scholarship was very encouraging for those people who did put in the effort to come to Waterloo.”

Now, Lee’s $2,500 donation will be added to Sullivan’s money to raise the annual scholarship amount on offer at their former high school. “Gerry has a really great dream, and I feel happy to support that,” Lee said.