Georgian College is blazing a new trail in the academic sector by becoming the first college in Ontario to secure a $1-million endowed chair.

The donation has been made by Henry Bernick, an entrepreneur and Barrie’s first land developer, who has been instrumental in the growth of the local real estate market since the 1950s.  He has given the gift, which includes an additional $500,000 to create the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre, with a goal of supporting entrepreneurship education and encouraging innovation in his hometown. The Centre is set to open in January 2012.

“Georgian is extremely grateful to Henry and his wife Esther for their support and their confidence in Georgian, and for encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in our region for future generations,” said Brian Tamblyn, President and CEO of Georgian College. “Their visionary support is very much in line with Georgian’s strategic plan, Vision 2015, which emphasizes entrepreneurship, innovation, and small and medium enterprises as a common learning experience that applies across many of our academic programs.”

The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Chair will be filled by a Business faculty member to lead the soon-to-be created Entrepreneurship Centre. The Chair will offer technical assistance, mentoring, coaching, training and network opportunities to entrepreneurs and students from both Georgian and the external community, to share expertise and create synergies that they need to start or grow their own businesses. The community-accessible Centre will also support entrepreneurial activities across Simcoe County.

“The Entrepreneurship Chair and Centre will play a long-term role in supporting the economic development of Simcoe County. Seventy-three per cent of Barrie businesses employ fewer than five people but account for 80 per cent of business growth.  The new Centre will be another asset in the community for small and medium enterprises and Georgian students to access,” said Tamblyn.

Leading up to the grand opening of the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre, the Chair will work on curriculum development for entrepreneurship courses and programs that will meet the needs of Georgian students and local businesses.

Bernick is one of Simcoe County’s most successful entrepreneurs. For more than 70 years he has enjoyed continuous attachment to Simcoe County.

“It is important to me to support entrepreneurship education at Georgian so that future generations of entrepreneurs can find their mentors and become the best business people possible,” said Bernick. “In the next generation, everyone will need to be an entrepreneur to some degree to achieve career stability and success. Jobs with a pension, benefits and security that last the length of a career are increasingly rare. Entrepreneurship is a way for our youth to invest in their future.”

In 1939, at the age of 15, Bernick immigrated to Canada from Poland with his family, settling on a 100-acre farm in Essa Township. After graduating from the University of Toronto as an engineer, Bernick entered the business world through a family business. With the support of key mentors and business partners, he became a pioneer in the land development industry in Barrie and the Toronto area.

He has also been active as a philanthropist in the Simcoe County region, especially in the field of education.

“My family’s appreciation for education goes back decades – from the time my grandfather hired a year-round teacher in Poland to teach his 10 children in their home, to my parents’ willingness to let me attend university instead of staying home to lend much-needed help on the farm,” said Bernick.

A search of publicly announced contributions confirmed this as the largest endowed chair at an Ontario College.

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