Victoria developer Gordon Denford has donated $5 million to Glenlyon Norfolk School on behalf of his family — the second-largest single donation ever to an independent school in Western Canada.
The gift is going toward a capital campaign coming next year to refurbish the school’s two campuses at 1701 Beach Dr. and 801 Bank St. It will be known as the Wonder Campaign.
Head of school Glenn Zederayko said the impact of the Denford donation is hard to measure.
“The Denford family’s generous support of GNS in thought, word and deed spans almost half of our school’s history, and we are overwhelmed by this transformational gesture.”
Denford, the founder of Berwick Retirement Communities, said his regard for education goes back to a “life-altering” event at the age of nine in his home town of Bristol, England. It happened when a scholarship led him to Cotham Grammar School, where he said his eyes and mind were opened “to language, culture, the arts, mathematics and the sciences.”
“Throughout the years, the importance, respect and love of education that I learned at Cotham has never left me,” he said in a speech marking the donation. “I have been privileged to serve on the board of Glenlyon and Norfolk House schools, Pearson College, the Camosun Foundation and Royal Roads University.”
Denford spoke at the school’s former Hall at Pemberton Woods, which has now been renamed to honour the Denford family.
He said it was his son Chris, a Glenlyon graduate — daughters Valerie and Laura are Norfolk House graduates — who suggested making a family donation, with father and son giving equal contributions. Glenlyon and Norfolk House amalgamated in 1985 to form Glenlyon Norfolk.
Denford said making the donation is special to him.
“This is an emotional event for me, that this evening, the family of a kid from Bristol, who had been fortunate to win a scholarship at a respected school many years ago, is going to be honoured by an equally respected school in Victoria with the naming of this hall.”
The first phase of the Glenlyon Norfolk project has already begun at the Beach Drive campus, where new kindergarten and junior kindergarten facilities are being built and the boathouse is being renovated. The hope is that subsequent phases will be done within two years, when work on the middle and senior schools will start.