The community, they say, has been good to them since they arrived 30 years ago to open the city’s first Canadian Tire store. So when Art and Mary Jane Crooks sought a way in which to give back, they selected Lethbridge College, the place to which they often turned for the skilled trades’ people they required for their successful enterprises.
In November, they and Lethbridge College unveiled the Crooks School of Transportation, the opening paragraph in its next chapter of trades and technologies education. Alberta’s Access to the Future Fund, which supports innovation and excellence within Alberta’s advanced learning system, was able to match a portion of the Crooks’ gift, bringing the total naming of the school to $2 million.
“As business people, we realize just how important the trades are,” said Art Crooks at the unveiling. “We know the ‘old gang’ is retiring and we need new people to take their place. The purely academic stream has been overemphasized and students are not always encouraged to enter a trade, yet they provide professional and rewarding careers in which skilled people can make a good living. When we moved here, we became much aware of the work being done by Lethbridge College in trades education.” The college’s ability to offer cutting-edge trades training, and to attract students to it, will be greatly enhanced by the Crooks’ donation.
“The college is in a horsepower war with other institutions in Alberta,” said Art. “We hope our gift helps keep students in Lethbridge and makes training at Lethbridge College as accessible as possible.”
The Crooks have long believed in the importance of education and in the concept of philanthropy. After opening two Canadian Tire outlets in Ontario, the couple moved to Lethbridge in 1979, and, said Mary Jane, expected their stay to be short.
“Canadian Tire was opening the West and wanted seasoned owners to move out here,” she said. “We intended to stay five years. But, Lethbridge was a great place to raise kids, especially with the influence of two postsecondary institutions [the Crooks have three grown children] and we made it our home.”
“The donation and partial matching grant will,” said Lethbridge College President Tracy Edwards, “form the cornerstone of trades and sustainable technology training for years to come.”
“This is truly a transformational gift,” says Edwards. “It sends a clear message to the region and the province, and helps us chart an academic vision and create a strategic investment in the school of transportation.”
Steven Dyck, executive director of Advancement at Lethridge College, says the donation gives the school ability to react swiftly to new possibilities, such as it did with its wind turbine technician program.
“It will allow us to adapt to our environment to meet the economic demands of the community,” says Dyck. “Our faculty already go to the ends of the Earth for their students; this gives us hope and belief that we will have a new facility for students, faculty and the community.