Community confident RIM co-CEOs will continue charitable work
WATERLOO — The changing of the guard at Research In Motion has not raised concerns about the company’s charitable giving.
News that RIM founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have stepped down from their co-chief executive roles has not set shock waves through the organizations whose existence is largely dependent on the generosity of Waterloo’s primary philanthropists.
“They are both very community-minded and I expect their philanthropy will continue,” said Rob Donelson, vice-president of development at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Their beneficiaries include the Perimeter Institute, which attracts world-leading scientists, and Grand River Hospital’s Balsillie Family Building, which gives hope to cancer patients. Balsillie contributed $5 million toward the $56 million project.
They are also the driving force behind The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Balsillie School of International Affairs, as well as the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing.
“These guys think large. They dream big dreams and then they actually implement them,” said Fred Kuntz, CIGI vice-president of public affairs.
“I really don’t see the connection between the RIM announcement and CIGI directly. We don’t have a direct relationship with RIM. It was always Jim’s private and personal philanthropy. It wasn’t the donation from RIM,” Kuntz said.
“I can only speak for CIGI and say we are grateful for what Jim has done for us to date and we look forward to his continued support. I am very optimistic for the Waterloo community,” he said.
Balsillie founded CIGI 10 years ago, contributing $20 million to its endowment fund. Lazaridis gave $10 million.
The building houses the Balsillie School of International Affairs which has had 84 graduates go through its doors in a partnership program with the University of Waterloo and Laurier.
“I think they have been absolutely significant and I expect they will continue to be,” said Laurier provost Deborah MacLatchy.
The University of Waterloo has also benefited from a $100 million donation from Lazaridis toward the Institute for Quantum Computing which will expand into the $160-million Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Quantam-Nano Centre in September.
“Mike is the visionary and inspiration behind the institute,” said Raymond Laflamme, executive director of the Institute for Quantum Computing.
“In many ways, you couldn’t have a better philanthropist than Mike. He is there when we need him. He is there to help us, guide us and give us a vision. But he is never there to come and micromanage,” said Laflamme, adding he’s not concerned about the shakeup at RIM.
Lazaridis also founded the Perimeter Institute and has contributed more than $170 million toward the world-leading physics institute.
“Through Mike’s personal philanthropy and his vision, that is why we are here,” said John Matlock, Perimeter’s director of public affairs.
“RIM is completely distinct from the Perimeter Institute. (RIM) is an incredibly successful organization, as is Perimeter. We are distinct institutions,” Matlock said.
Besides these landmark donations, the RIM founders have made a lot of smaller, quieter contributions.
Their impact on Waterloo’s two universities has been huge, with Laurier alone receiving $23 million from Balsillie in scholarships and fellowships.
Other donations include $5 million to the Stratford Festival, money toward the youth-empowerment event We Day, and purchase of a refrigerated truck for the local food bank.