The late Dr. Cor Van Raay (LLD ’15) believed southern Alberta provided him with opportunities that contributed to his success and he demonstrated his gratitude by generously supporting many local organizations, including the University of Lethbridge.
When he accepted his honorary degree at the Fall 2015 Convocation, Van Raay encouraged graduates to pave their own way forward, using their experience, their interests and, most importantly, their education to guide them to a fulfilling career.
“Fear regrets, not failure,” Van Raay said. “Do something you’re passionate about and have fun every day.”
Van Raay lived those words. Originally from Holland, he knew from a young age he wanted to farm. He attended agricultural school, but realized there wasn’t enough land in Holland to create the farm of his dreams. Van Raay came to Canada as a young man and found a farming opportunity in Alberta in Iron Springs. His entrepreneurial bent soon became evident. He began growing beets and later added barley, potatoes and wheat. In time, he bought land and cattle and eventually established one of the country’s most successful cattle operations.
It was with an eye to supporting the future of agribusiness in southern Alberta that Van Raay donated $5 million, jointly to Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge, to establish the Cor Van Raay Southern Alberta Agribusiness Program. The program, designed to provide leading-edge training in agribusiness practices, focuses on agricultural economics, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Van Raay also funded a number of scholarships at the U of L, including the Cor Van Raay AGILITY Scholarship in Agriculture and Agribusiness and two Dhillon School of Business scholarships, one of which was named after his late wife, Christine, who passed away in 2006.
He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alberta Cattle Feeders in 2011 and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. In 2016, he was inducted into the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame, and he was recognized in 2017 with an Inspiring Philanthropy Award on National Philanthropy Day. Picture Butte made him Citizen of the Year in 2020. Van Raay received the Alberta Order of Excellence in the summer of 2021, shortly after he passed away.
SHINE: The Campaign for the University of Lethbridge launched in 2018 with two main goals: to significantly increase engagement opportunities for alumni and community members and to raise $100 million to propel the entire region forward. Thanks to your support, we have surpassed these goals. More than 20,000 alumni are now actively engaged with the University and, thanks to the incredible generosity of 11,000 donors who made 33,000 gifts, we have raised more than $103 million.
Thank you for joining us to take bold steps toward a brighter future together.