One of southern Alberta’s most prominent agricultural entrepreneurs is ensuring that the future of agribusiness and the agricultural sector remain strong through a major philanthropic gift that will benefit students at both the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College.
Cor Van Raay, the founder of Cor Van Raay Farms and a leading Canadian cattle producer, has donated $5 million to Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge, jointly, to establish the Cor Van Raay Southern Alberta Agribusiness Program.
“This is an incredible gift, and we are extremely grateful to Cor and his passion for agriculture and his commitment to southern Alberta,” says University of Lethbridge President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Mike Mahon. “Through the establishment of this program, we will be able to create student opportunities such that we educate future generations in agribusiness practices that enable them to successfully operate wide ranging businesses in the agricultural sector.”
Through the Cor Van Raay Southern Alberta Agribusiness Program, a joint program offered by the College and the University will be created, focusing on agriculture-related education opportunities in the areas of Ag-economics, business development, entrepreneurship, finance, human resource management, commodity and futures trading, and general management and leadership with a focus on agricultural innovation.
“Mr. Cor Van Raay is a philanthropist, a lifelong learner, an innovator and a collaborator,” says Lethbridge College President and CEO, Dr. Paula Burns. “His collaborative nature is seen in the structure of this gift, which will allow Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge to create a unique partnership to meet the educational needs of agricultural professions for future generations.”
Van Raay and his late wife, Christine, settled in the Iron Springs area of southern Alberta in the early 1960s. The couple purchased a half section of cropland, to which Cor added a small herd of Holstein cattle in 1966.
By the 1970s, the Van Raays were growing grain and sugar beets and, as their cattle numbers grew, began to establish what would become one of the country’s most successful cattle operations.
In the early 1980s, Cor co-founded Butte Grain Merchants and continued to build his cattle business with an increasing emphasis on sustainable business practices. Around the same time, Cor became a majority owner of a very successful southern Alberta John Deere dealership from which he recently retired. Cor has now shifted his focus to a new farming operation he’s establishing in Saskatchewan.
The $5 million gift will be shared jointly between the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College, establishing endowed student awards, academic programming, an Agriculture Entrepreneur in Residence (Lethbridge College) and an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program (University of Lethbridge).
“In partnership with Lethbridge College and the U of L, this gift will help position southern Alberta as a leader in the agricultural industry,” says Van Raay. “I’m really looking forward to the future.”
$1 million for endowed student awards ($500,000 each to the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College)
$2 million for academic programming ($1 million each to the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College)
$1 million for an Agriculture Entrepreneur in Residence program at Lethbridge College. Visiting experts and successful agricultural business leaders will be welcomed into the program as Agriculture Entrepreneurs in Residence to create opportunities for students at the College and the University to gain practical, real-world experience while generating impacts for existing agriculture operations and businesses
$1 million for an Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at the University of Lethbridge. This funding will be part of THINC (The Home for Innovative New Companies) and will be used to establish a 12-week course on business development and entrepreneurship, supported by agriculture mentors and entrepreneur mentors for students who have an innovative idea or concept that they would like to turn into potential business opportunities.