Queen's University

Kingston alumni family gives $1M for new global leadership program

Bob and Doris Burnside and their three daughters have made a $1 million donation to Queen's. Sadly, Doris passed away on May 8, just before the announcement of the gift.

Queen’s alumnus Robert (Bob) Burnside, Sc’56, and his wife Doris have donated $1 million to the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science for a new program in Innovation and Global Leadership.

The generous donation to Queen’s was a family decision made by Bob, his wife Doris, and their three daughters, two of whom are Queen’s grads. “This donation is something we all believe in,” says Bob. “I’ve been so active at Queen’s, and it’s been fruitful for me and for my family, and now it’s payback time.” Sadly, Doris passed away on May 8, just before the announcement of the gift.

The Burnsides' gift is earmarked for the new program, which will be a joint venture of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and Queen's School of Business. The program will include both experiential and theoretical learning focused on addressing the challenges of innovation and leadership in the global marketplace from both an engineering and business perspective. Graduates will be uniquely equipped to lead and grow the knowledge economy.

“Educating engineers with strong leadership skills is vital,” says Mr. Burnside. “When you think about any big engineering project – such as the Alberta oil sands or the Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline – the actual infrastructure is only part of the picture. A large part of the project is about negotiation, interdisciplinary collaboration, management, and vision. That’s leadership.”

When Bob Burnside graduated from Queen’s Chemical Engineering in 1956, he was the first hire at Imperial Oil’s newest company, Esso Chemical Canada. During his 32 years with the company, it grew and prospered. He served as Executive V-P of Esso Chemical Canada – which then had 4,200 employees – and he retired a V-P of Imperial Oil in 1988.

“I want Queen’s engineers to have the best possible leadership skills to compete in the global economy,” he says. “Leadership is paramount.”

Mr. Burnside has been active in the Queen’s community for 59 years. He has organized class reunions, chaired the Engineering Advisory Council, served as a member of a various fundraising campaigns, contributed generously to the University (there’s a conference room named in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Burnside in the Biosciences complex), and served as President of the Alumni Association in 1986-87. Mr. Burnside retired to Kingston in 1988 and took on the role of special assistant to Principal David C. Smith.

He will be attending Spring Reunion events this weekend, as he and his Sc’56 classmates mark their 55th year as Queen’s alumni.

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Last updated at 4:16 pm EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
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