Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
Oct. 28, 2022
Joan Snyder’s tremendous legacy lives on at UCalgary with $67.5M gift
Innovative and industrious as a business leader, Joan Snyder, Hon. LLD’11, CM, brought those same qualities to her philanthropy, seeking to not only improve the lives of others, but also to elevate the community and inspire the same passion in others.
“Whenever I’ve taken on a project, it’s because I see a need and thoroughly believe in it,” she once said. “It’s done from my heart.”
That dedication made her one of the University of Calgary’s most impactful and ardent supporters during her lifetime — and, in true Snyder fashion, she continues to drive positive change even after her passing earlier this year. In a final act of generosity, she left an exceptional legacy gift of more than $100 million to community organizations — including $67.5 million that will boost research, student learning and athletics at UCalgary.
Of this new gift, $35 million will be directed to the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases to sustain it in perpetuity and spark discoveries that build on its world-leading strengths in microbiome and organoid development research. Another $30 million will establish the Joan Snyder Fund for Excellence in Kinesiology, which will elevate the already internationally recognized Faculty of Kinesiology, ranked No. 1 among sport-science schools in North America and No. 10 in the world.
Research catalyzed by her support
“Joan Snyder was a true friend to our community. It’s not an exaggeration to say the University of Calgary’s research excellence has been catalyzed by her support,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, PhD, president and vice-chancellor.
“Our research is having global impact. It’s why Joan entrusted us with this gift, because she knew we’d have the expertise and the drive to turn it into something extraordinary. We’re honoured to be in a position to carry on her remarkable legacy.”
Snyder, who passed away at the age of 90 in April 2022, was one of UCalgary’s longest-standing champions. In 2008, she made a transformational $9-million gift to establish the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases. The institute now has 480 highly qualified researchers, clinicians and trainees across three faculties and houses the world’s largest germ-free research facility, the International Microbiome Centre.
“Research breakthroughs from the Snyder Institute are putting Calgary on the map as a destination of choice for researchers, students and trainees,” says Dr. Derek McKay, PhD, director of the Snyder Institute. “This new gift will make an enormous impact on our ability to lead the way in precision-medicine technology.
"We will build on our strengths in imaging the immune system and in UCalgary's International Microbiome Centre, both of which Joan also supported, to add a patient's own microbiome into organoids — ‘mini organs’ grown in laboratories using patients’ cells — as a way to test new treatments safely and less invasively and to understand and predict how a patient will respond.”
University of Calgary
Funding excellence in kinesiology
She was equally passionate about healthy living through movement and sport, which led her to invest in the Faculty of Kinesiology. The new Joan Snyder Fund for Excellence in Kinesiology will further accelerate research, grow the varsity athletics program, and strengthen community and industry partnerships to help people live healthy and active lives. And, with a specific focus on women and girls — an underrepresented group — the fund will also help correct a longstanding imbalance in research, for the benefit of all genders.
“The faculty wouldn’t be where it is without Joan’s support, and this new gift will take sport-science and varsity athletics at UCalgary to new heights,” says Dr. Penny Werthner, provost (interim) and former dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology.
“Her love of community and advocacy for sport and healthy living has changed lives, here and around the world, and will continue to do so well into the future.”
Fondly remembered as the “grandmother of Canadian women’s hockey,” Snyder left an additional $2 million to expand the Joan Snyder Program of Excellence in Women’s Hockey at UCalgary, a first-of-its-kind program when it was created in 2011.
Generosity is about helping people
On Oct. 28, UCalgary hosted a celebration of Snyder’s life and legacy, with some of her memorabilia on display. An avid collector, she left an additional $500,000 to UCalgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources to support the preservation of art and collections.
The event included other recipients of the more than $100 million left in her estate, including Mount Royal University, the Calgary Foundation, University of Saskatchewan, Calgary Zoo, PALS, Calgary Humane Society, Wood’s Homes Foundation, Heritage Park Foundation, Calgary Stampede Foundation, and The Salvation Army, Alberta and NWT – Agape Hospice.
“For someone who made such an incredible difference to so many people, Joan never put on airs,” says Don Brownie, BA’66, Snyder’s friend and longtime business adviser. “She was pretty straightforward, but she had a wonderful sense of humour and was just fun to be around.”
“And she was smart. Joan had great business sense,” adds Don Hatch, also a close friend and adviser. “She learned her family’s businesses inside and out, and when she achieved success in her own right, she used it to make the world a better place. And that was Joan, through and through.”
Snyder once said that “philanthropy is more than money, it’s people helping people.” She lived by that sentiment, and, in a fitting tribute, her compassion and dedication will continue to inspire and benefit generations to come.
Learn more about Joan Snyder’s compassion for the community and her dedication to helping people.