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Edwards Charitable Foundation

Generous gifts from Edwards Charitable Foundation helped house U of T’s renowned Music Library, support distinguished musicians, and fund important medical research.

Founded by business entrepreneur Rupert Edwards (1894-1967) and managed by lawyer Jack McLellan (1929-2016), the Edwards Charitable Foundation offers significant support to cultural, health, environmental and educational endeavours, especially in Toronto. Edwards immigrated to Canada as a teenager, eventually settling in Toronto and founding a small paint factory in 1923. He grew Canada Varnish Company into one of the largest employers in the city, and this success allowed him to pursue his passion for music, which included playing the pipe organ and even building a carillon at his factory.

Edwards bought and landscaped an 11-hectare heritage estate in Toronto, turning it into a public park. He then chose to sell it to the city rather than privately. Today, the beautiful Edwards Gardens is a magnet for Torontonians and visitors alike.

When the Edwards Charitable Foundation was set up after Edwards’s death, his lawyer, Jack McLellan, became its president and increased its endowment through wise investments. Since 1973, the foundation has generously supported a range of causes, and is still administered by the McLellan family.

Edwards Charitable Foundation has given more than $5 million to the University of Toronto, with donations supporting infrastructure, research, scholarships and a prestigious chair in music scholarship.

In the 1980s, the foundation contributed more than $3 million to the Faculty of Music’s building campaign—more than half of the funds required to complete the Rupert E. Edwards Wing and a new home for the Music Library. The library’s renowned holdings are the largest music research collection in Canada, and they include a trove of books, journals, archival documents, scores, recordings and rare manuscripts.

In 2000, a further gift of $1 million endowed the R.E. Edwards Chair in Piano Performance, allowing the Faculty of Music to expand its piano program. Chair holders have included William Aide, a member of the Order of Canada who promoted Canadian compositions throughout a distinguished international performance career, and James Parker, a member of the Juno Award-winning Gryphon Trio. In addition, the foundation restored an organ at Knox College and sponsored an annual organ recital.

In recent years, the foundation has made regular gifts totalling $1 million to support dementia research in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Toronto Dementia Research Alliance. Focused on research for prevention and treatment, as well as standardization of care, the alliance runs many impactful projects. For example, it is building an extensive clinical database, testing a treatment that could prevent mild cognitive impairment developing into Alzheimer’s disease and training fellows to support Toronto’s memory clinics.

The Edwards Charitable Foundation has created a tremendous legacy at the University of Toronto. It has enriched music scholarship and performance in Canada and helped prevent and treat a disease that is affecting more and more people around the world.