Nov. 15, 2018

Generous gift from Lacey family funds new fellowship at Calgary Institute for the Humanities

Venerable institute establishes CIH Endowment, aiming to raise $5 million by 2020
The gift to the Calgary Institute for the Humanities from the Naomi and John Lacey Foundation for the Arts is a way of keeping Naomi’s values alive, says husband John.

Naomi and John Lacey, of the Lacey Foundation.

Lacey Foundation

  • Above: The gift to the Calgary Institute for the Humanities from the Lacey Foundation for the Arts is a way of keeping Naomi’s values alive, says husband John.

Nearly two years after losing his beloved wife Naomi, philanthropist and oil and gas entrepreneur John Lacey still speaks of her with a devotion that’s palpable.

When asked what possessed him to propose to her on their first date, back in 1955 — an act that would seem rather rash to most — he laughs and answers: “I can’t tell you that. You’d have to meet her, and, if you met her, you’d understand. She was an amazing woman and she had that special quality until the day she died. She would walk into a room and the room would light up.”

Among the countless rooms Naomi lit up over the course of her life were classrooms and boardrooms at the University of Calgary. After attaining her MA in classics, she taught Latin for 10 years. A passionate advocate of the arts and the humanities, she also became involved with the university’s longstanding Calgary Institute for the Humanities (CIH) as a member of its advisory board.

It’s in honour of Naomi that the Naomi and John Lacey Foundation for the Arts has gifted $135,000 to UCalgary, in 10 annual installments, to fund a new Annual Resident Fellowship at the CIH, the venerable 42-year-old institution dedicated to engaging the public with research based in the humanities.

The inaugural fellow of the Naomi Lacey Resident Fellowship is history professor Hendrik Kraay, whose research is focused on the social, political and cultural history of Brazil.

“It is a great honour to be the first recipient of the Lacey Fellowship, especially given how much the Lacey family has supported arts and culture in Calgary,” says Kraay.

Indeed, the Laceys have provided support to many of the city’s arts organizations over the decades, perhaps most notably to the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2000 the couple spearheaded the formation of The Friends of the CPO and Musical Heritage program which helped rescue the orchestra from bankruptcy and bring it to its current place of financial stability.

Coinciding with the Laceys’ donation — the news notably made on Philanthropy Day — the CIH has received a gift that comes with a challenge to other community supporters. An anonymous donor has guaranteed to match community contributions to a CIH Endowment fund, up to a total of $50,000. “This is an exciting philanthropic opportunity for the CIH,” says Dr. Jim Ellis, PhD, CIH director.

Ellis adds: “Philanthropy Day is the one-year anniversary of a transformative gift of one million dollars to the CIH which came from double alumna Judy MacLachlan and her family. Building on this generous donation — with subsequent boosts from the Naomi and John Lacy Foundation for the Arts, Rod and Betty Wade (who last year donated $100,000), as well as strong community support during the second annual University of Calgary Giving Day — we’re aiming to create a $5-million endowment by 2020.”

For John Lacey, the gift from the Naomi and John Lacey Foundation for the Arts is a way of keeping Naomi’s values alive. “These are the principles she tried to teach us, about philanthropy and the importance of the humanities,” says Lacey. “I know her wish would be to see the CIH gain in strength and influence at the university and in the community. Its work has depth and importance.”

Adds Kraay: “The CIH is Canada’s oldest humanities institute, but it sometimes seems like one of the University of Calgary’s best-kept secrets. The Lacey family donation and all of these generous gifts enrich the CIH by raising its profile in Calgary. They recognize the CIH’s importance, not just to the university but also to the Calgary community and to our cultural life.”

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to double your investment in Calgary’s cultural landscape by making your gift today. Direct your donation to the CIH Endowment before Dec. 31, and we’ll match the first $50,000 raised to make an even bigger impact in our community. Your support is invaluable in moving forward research and outreach programs that enrich our campus and our city — thank you!

Energize: The Campaign for Eyes High is the University of Calgary’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in its history. Funds raised through the campaign will support student experiences, research outcomes and community connections. Together we are fuelling transformational change for the University of Calgary, our city, and beyond — inspiring discovery, creativity and innovation for generations to come. Formally launched in April 2016, the campaign is more than three quarters to its overall goal of $1.3 billion.