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Obituary: Sardul S. Gill, 90, faced significant barriers, had a knack for business, donated $5 million to UVic

“He laboured all his life and encouraged me to pursue my education at a time when there were significant barriers to people of Indian descent in this country,” Sardul S. Gill said of his father.
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Sardul S. Gill has died at age 90.

Sardul S. Gill, one of the ­University of Victoria’s largest individual benefactors, has died at 90.

Gill made the largest ­contribution ever by an alumnus to UVic.

The Sardul S. Gill ­Graduate School at UVic’s Peter B. ­Gustavson School of Business is named in his honour following a $5-million donation he made in 2011.

Gill went to Victoria ­College, precursor to UVic, before attending UBC and becoming a chartered general accountant. Not only was his the largest gift to UVic by an alumnus, it is also the largest donation to a graduate school at UVic.

Gill said the impetus for the donation was his father, Bhan Singh Gill, who immigrated to Canada from the Punjab in India in 1906.

“He laboured all his life and encouraged me to pursue my education at a time when there were significant barriers to people of Indian descent in this country,” he told the Times ­Colonist in 2011.

“My father could not get a job for nine, 10 cents an hour but eventually found work in ­sawmills at Paldi, near Duncan.”

He told the Times Colonist his father and mother, Hardial Kaur Gill, were “staunch ­believers in education and now I want to honour them and the value they placed on higher education by giving something back to the institution that gave me a start in life.”

Gill remembered his high school counsellor at Vic High telling him he should pursue the trades or a sawmill job because of his ancestry.

But Gill eventually showed a knack for business and did well in it, accumulating apartment buildings and other commercial real estate in Victoria.

“Here we have a very, very modest man, a modest family, giving back to the community and saying: ‘I want to leave a legacy that supports others in their quest for education. It’s a remarkable gift,” then UVic president David Turpin said at the time.

The largest individual or ­family donation to UVic was a $17-million bequest in 2001 from Michael Williams, a devoted local philanthropist, respected heritage property developer and longtime patron of the arts.

In 2016, the university named its main administrative building services for Williams.

Other large gifts include $11 million from the late Bob Wright, president and CEO of Oak Bay Marine Group of Companies, to support ocean, earth and atmospheric research and education at the university. The Ocean, Earth and ­Atmospheric Sciences Building is named in his honour.

Peter ­Gustavson gave $10 million in 2010 to the UVic business school that now bears his name, and the Mearns family gave $5 million in 2008. The extension of UVic’s McPherson Library is named the William C. Mearns Centre for Learning.

Gill was born in Victoria on Nov. 12, 1931, and died in his hometown on Nov. 25. Services were held this week.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Note to readers: This story has been corrected. The largest individual or ­family donation to UVic was made by Michael Williams.