A Tradition of Giving

When you give a gift to the University of Manitoba it has a lifelong impact. Each gift—big or small—has the power to make a difference and provide our students and faculty with an environment that encourages innovation, leadership and excellence.

The University of Manitoba received its first donation in 1885 through a bequest from Alexander Kennedy Isbister (pictured at right). Our first benefactor has inspired countless others to follow in his footsteps and give to the University of Manitoba. His example is entwined with our commitment to being a world-class university, open to all who wish to learn.  

A Métis of Cree and Scottish descent, Alexander Kennedy Isbister was born in the heart of the Red River District in 1822. A firm believer in the value of higher education, Isbister left Manitoba in 1842 to study education and law at Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities in Scotland. There were no opportunities for a university education in the Red River District at that time.

A dedicated and passionate student, Isbister won several prizes and earned a master’s degree. He went on to become a scholar, educator, lawyer and author.

Isbister never returned to Canada, but he didn’t forget the country of his birth. When he died in 1883, he left $83,000 and over 4,000 books to the University of Manitoba. This remarkable act of generosity came with one stipulation – that the money be used for scholarships and prizes for all who merited them, regardless of sex, race, creed, language or nationality. While this is a common value today, Isbister was extremely forward thinking for his time.

Since those early days, countless others have supported the University of Manitoba, and we are grateful for the generosity of alumni, staff, faculty, students, parents and friends. Thank you for being part of this tradition!