Welcoming our newest alumni!
Ève Leblanc BSc’23
Creating the space for possibility: The Sobeys Inspiration Hub
The Sobeys Inspiration Hub Exterior
Inspiration and imagination. That is the spirit behind Saint Mary's new 62,000-square-foot addition.
Currently in its last construction phase, the Sobeys Inspiration Hub is a new, four-storey building that supports entrepreneurship and innovation at the university. This substantial campus addition is made possible by Sobeys Inc.'s contribution to the largest gift in the history of Saint Mary's University, an $18 million gift from the Sobey Family, Sobey Foundation and Sobeys Inc.
Opening in Fall 2023, the expansion will be a catalyst for superior interdisciplinary learning and applied research, boosting activity in entrepreneurship and data analytics while driving prosperity and resilience across the region. It will provide new learning spaces and foster innovative multidisciplinary work, bringing together our 6,600+ students, professors and researchers from all faculties, including Arts, Science, Graduate Studies and the Sobey School of Business.
Future visitors will find a large collaborative gathering space, the university art gallery, a home for the Arthur L. Irving Entrepreneurship Centre (ALIEC), research centres, retail labs, maker spaces, project studios and dedicated rooms for student societies.
The Arthur L. Irving Entrepreneurship Centre
In March 2023, Arthur, Sandra and Sarah Irving, along with the Arthur L. Irving Family Foundation and Irving Oil, announced a transformational gift of $5 million to accelerate the expansion of Saint Mary's University's Entrepreneurship Centre. In recognition of this generosity, the space will be named the Arthur L. Irving Entrepreneurship Centre.
"We are inspired by Saint Mary University's deep and caring commitment to their students," says Sandra Irving, who holds an honorary degree from the university. "We’re very proud to support their work to lead in entrepreneurial education with the development of the Arthur L. Irving Entrepreneurship Centre—a place we hope will spark innovation, inspire collaboration and help to make students’ dreams a reality.”
Located on the second floor of the Sobeys Inspiration Hub, the centre will encompass a range of innovative and collaborative spaces, including a digital prototyping lab and a podcasting studio. It will be a space where our students will build, create and innovate. One for fostering connection and valuing mentorship. One where our community will help shape our future.
The David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services
Located on the 4th floor of the Sobeys Inspiration Hub, a new and expanded David Sobey Centre is positioned to play an essential role in helping Canadian retailers shape a strong future. Aiming to be the leading source of retail expertise, the centre focuses on multidisciplinary research, supporting innovation and providing professional development education programs.
Each year, the centre supports and funds over $120,000 in retail-centric research. Researchers come from various disciplines within the Sobey School of Business and other expert areas to work on projects that advance knowledge and offer valuable insights for retailers. A new collaborative space will continue to further this vital work, helping to establish the David Sobey Centre as an internationally recognized name in the retail sector.
Makers spaces, collaborative spaces, active learning classroom
Another particularly exciting opportunity the Sobeys Inspiration Hub and the Exchange buildings provide are makers spaces, collaborative spaces and student common areas.
Located primarily on the third floor, these spaces will be used to move the work of our talented students and faculty out of the classroom and offices and into a state-of-the-art collaborative environment. For student societies and groups to gather. For businesses and entrepreneurs in the community to come in and enter into meaningful interactions with the university.
Another extension of campus that will be closely related to the Sobeys Inspiration Hub is called The Exchange. Purposely created with an open, engaging atmosphere in mind, the space will offer a bright, comfortable gathering space for the entire community to enjoy. This includes a large student gathering space named the Anne J. and Albert T. Isaacs Commons, thanks to a generous $2.5 million donation from the estate of Anne and Albert Isaacs DipENG’55. Community members can also be excited about an expanded campus store, coffee shop and eateries, with room to host large events for up to 100 people.
On the edge of The Exchange is a special project of the David Sobey Centre—a retail innovation lab. This will be the place for experiential learning, sharing new ideas, expanding creativity and connecting with local partners across the province. We look forward to welcoming our entire Saint Mary’s community to experience this new and exciting addition to our campus starting in Fall 2023. Stay tuned for more information and special alumni events.
Students Lydia Lee, Joe Yurchesyn, Michael Sanderson MBA'08, Director of ALIEC and Jada Joseph BA'21 touring the new Arthur L. Irving Entrepreneurship Centre under construction
(Photo: James Ingraham)
50 years later: ‘73 champion basketball team dribbles down memory lane
The varsity men’s Huskies basketball team 1972-73
Back Row (left to right): John Landry, manager; Brian Burgess BA'76 BEd'78, Art Waters, Mickey Fox BA'76 BEd'77, Fred Perry, Greig Redding Comm'76, John Gallinaugh BComm'74 BEd'76, Captain
Front Row (left to right): Otha Johnson, Donald ‘Taps’ Gallagher BA'76, Lee Thomas BA'78, Peter Halpin BA'73, Bob Taboski BSc'78, Coach Brian Heaney AssocAlum'78
(Photo: Association of Atlantic Universities)
50th Anniversary reunion photo—The varsity men’s Huskies basketball team 1972-73
Back Row (left to right): John Landry (manager), Brian Burgess BA'76 BEd'78, Mickey Fox BA'76 BEd'77, Fred Perry, Greig Redding BComm'76, John Gallinaugh BComm'74 BEd'76, Terry O'Neill (manager)
Front Row (left to right): Donald "Taps" Gallagher BA'76, Lee Thomas BA'78, Peter Halpin BA'73, Bob Taboski BSc'78, Coach Brian Heaney AssocAlum'78
(Photo: Mona Ghiz)
By Gail Lethbridge
When the English physicist Sir Isaac Newton talked about “standing on the shoulders of giants,” he was not necessarily referring to the Saint Mary’s Huskies championship basketball team of 1973.
But those words have resonated well through the centuries and we have seen it play out in the legacy of sports excellence at Saint Mary’s.
You could say the national basketball champions of 1973 were giants because—well, being basketball players—they were tall. In some cases, really tall. Centre player Peter Halpin BA’73 was 6”8’.
But those players and that team were giants because they set the tone for championships and victories that followed. For a relatively small university, Saint Mary’s went on to punch above its weight on the national scene.
And it was not just basketball. Saint Mary’s football team also won national titles in the wake of 1973.
The achievement of the big basketball team from the little university was recognized 50 years later with a long-standing ovation by thousands of fans at the Scotiabank Centre during the 2023 U SPORTS Men's Final 8 Basketball Championships.
During halftime of the semi-final, the ’73 team—who reunited for the anniversary—stood on the centre court holding up their numbered jerseys for the crowd.
“We got a prolonged standing ovation which was really touching because it reinforced that people did remember and they did care,” says Halpin, who organized the reunion. “It was not just about us. It was about a celebration of the time. Friends and fans were part of the celebration which made it really special.”
During halftime of the semi-final of 2023 U SPORTS Men's Final 8 Basketball Championships at Scotiabank Centre
On March 3, 1972, Saint Mary’s sports history was made when the team defeated Lakehead University Nor’westers by a score of 79-67, winning the Canadian Intercollegiate University Association (CIAU) national basketball championship in Waterloo, ON.
It was the first national sports championship in the school’s history. The team was later inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.
“That team established the championship culture at the university. It set the stage for a decade of Huskies basketball hardwood dominance.”
Halpin credits the team’s success to hard work and the coaching of Brian Heaney AssocAlum'78, who was only 25 years old at the time. He played for Acadia and then went on to play in the NBA before taking on the coaching role at Saint Mary’s.
“He came from the NBA and knew what it took to play at a really high level to achieve. He ran our practices accordingly. We all bought into that. It was hard work, but it was fun.”
Coach Heaney was also present at the reunion and on the centre court with the team during the standing ovation at Scotiabank Centre.
"Fifty years is a long time, and a lot of things can happen along the way in the journey through life,” Heaney told the CBC during the reunion.
“But this team stayed together spiritually and bonded together as teammates, and for that, we are blessed.”
Another player, Lee Thomas BA’78, recalls the underdog status of the team. He said people did not expect them to win.
But win they did. And they won big.
“For myself, when I stepped on the court, I always expected to win. So it was not a surprise to me,” he told Global News.
“It was great to bring in a championship for SMU because it created a lot of excitement. Basketball sort of exploded during that time.”
He said the key to winning a championship was to play as a team and build a rapport with other team members.
Thomas’ teammate, Taps Gallagher BComm’74 BEd’76, agrees that team rapport was the magic dust and that Heaney was a driving force behind the team’s achievement.
“The coach always said we had the best team in Canada and we had the second-best team in Canada [referring to role players, AKA bench players],” says Gallagher. “They would practice with and challenge our team leaders every single day, making them all the better."
Gallagher says that one of the best parts of the victory was the reception the team had when it arrived home from the championship in 1973.
“You have to remember the whole story. We came up there and rewrote the history books of basketball in Canada.”
He also remembers the fierce rivalry between Canadian fans and US players. Nine of the Saint Mary’s team were recruited by Heaney from the US. He recalls the anti-American sentiment from fans in Waterloo during the final.
As a result of this sentiment, the CIAU changed the rule on the number of non-Canadian players allowed on Canadian varsity teams. The new rule was that only three were allowed. That meant that Gallagher—an American—was ineligible to play on the team the following year.
While he was disappointed that he could not continue to play on the team, he stayed at Saint Mary’s, hosted a radio show and wrote a column for the student newspaper, The Journal, before graduating and returning to the US where he studied law.
He has remained active in basketball in the States, coaching teams and running Michael Jordan basketball camps for kids. He has also remained fit, working out and running marathons. During one basketball event he was involved in, Gallagher met the late basketball superstar Kobe Bryant.
Because he could not play out his years at Saint Mary’s, Gallagher still had two years of eligibility left. This has opened the door to another chance to break a basketball record.
He is planning to do a degree at the Harvard Kennedy Business School in Boston and work with their basketball team as a grad assistant.
“I want to do one thing before I die. I’m going to ask to suit up and get in the game. At that point, I’ll be 72 years old. I’ll be the oldest ever to play in the NCAA for the Harvard team.”
If Gallagher is successful in his bid, the legacy of the ‘73 Saint Mary’s team of giants will have one more achievement on the record.
The secret ingredient to success in the wine industry
Avondale Sky Winery
For Karl Coutinho BComm’04, winemaking is more than just a business. It is a labour of love that closely connects him with his family, the land and his community.
By purchasing Avondale Sky Winery in November 2019, the Coutinho family saw the business as an excellent opportunity with great potential for growth. Little did they know that a global pandemic would strike just a few months later and that their entrepreneurial spirit and passion for the industry would never be so important.
“No amount of business planning can help you prepare for something like that,” says Coutinho. “As a family-run business, we had to step back and ask ourselves, ‘Why are we in business?’ And the answer was simple: to sell wine. We knew people couldn’t come to us, so we found innovative ways to go to them.”
Karl Coutinho BComm’04 (Photo: Carolina Andrade)
Within three days of the provincial shutdown, the business had pivoted online, adding a “free delivery” button, with the team delivering wine straight to the doors of their customers. They also tripled their wine club memberships. Both of these options lead to many new repeat customers, helping to build a loyal fanbase so that when the winery reopened, they were first in line to visit in person.
“It sounds so cliché, but entrepreneurship is all about following your dreams and never giving up on yourself. If you are doing something that you love and you are passionate about what you are doing, that can carry you very far. The last few years have continued to prove that, and I hope that is something young entrepreneurs and new grads can learn from.”
Since 2020, online orders have continued to be a prominent part of Avondale Sky’s business model—extending their business operations from the typical May to December season to twelve months of the year. Building on this growth, Coutinho was named Board Chair for Wine Growers Nova Scotia earlier this year.
“Being fairly new to this industry and having that vote of confidence from my peers gives me a great sense of pride. If you believe in yourself, you can do it.”
Through this role, along with his day job, the Saint Mary’s alumnus has his community at heart every step of the way. Knowing that collaboration, comradery and communication is the key to their success, he hopes to continue to help boost tourism in rural parts of the province.
“We are really fortunate that Nova Scotia has a very collaborative wine industry. Everyone is out to help one another. We are always sharing ideas, and sometimes, we are even sharing equipment. Why would we not? I do not view us as competitors. I see us as Team Nova Scotia of wineries. We are a very strong, very resilient community.”
Looking ahead to the summer season, Coutinho is excited for guests to experience a new food menu—one that features more shareable, less big-ticket food items. With a focus on food from different wine regions of the world that pair well with Avondale Sky wine, visitors can look forward to craveable, globally inspired plates that feature local ingredients.
“People want to share a bottle of wine and some snacks. With the price of food increasing, we do not want to pass that along to our customers, so we are pivoting our model to ensure they can enjoy a nice experience while differentiating ourselves. We are just trying to have fun with it!”
Nova Scotia wineries are pouring life back into rural communities
The grape is one powerful fruit. For centuries, grape wine has been a symbol of transformation, connecting the ancient and new worlds. Woven into celebrations, religion and culture worldwide, wine is now adding another superpower to its accolades—the ability to revitalize Nova Scotia's rural communities.
With seven grape-growing regions and over 21 wineries (commercial and craft), Nova Scotia's wine industry is bursting onto the world stage with its unique varietals and high-quality wines. Generating $245.2 million in economic impact and $48.8 million in tourism revenue in 2022, it's no understatement to say that the payoff of the Nova Scotia wine industry is nothing but sweet.
As an Innovation and Entrepreneurship researcher and professor at the Sobey School of Business, Dr. Claudia De Fuentes is interested in discovering how Nova Scotia craft wineries are helping reverse their communities' declining populations and bringing vibrancy back to regions outside urban centres.
Titled "Winemaking and place-making," De Fuentes' research focuses on answering five core questions in the hopes of helping communities leverage the positive social by-products of wine production through the migration of skilled wine professionals to rural communities. Her research will evaluate:
- Who are the main actors in the craft wine industry of rural Nova Scotia?
- What roles do they play in the accumulation of knowledge and skills to generate innovations?
- What is the process of knowledge and skills creation in the craft wine industry?
- What is the role of local factors in contributing to knowledge-sharing and innovation in the craft wine industry?
- How can this industry capitalize on existing strengths to bring greater social and economic benefits to rural Nova Scotia?
"We are seeing so much industry-wide innovation in growing grapes and producing wine in Nova Scotia. As a tight-knit industry, Nova Scotia is a very attractive region for internationally skilled, knowledgeable winemakers and producers," says De Fuentes.
Dr. Claudia De Fuentes
Through their work, De Fuentes and her research students are gaining a better understanding of what makes a rural community attractive to newcomers, especially those in the wine industry. And while community attractiveness is one factor, it's the factors that make people feel at home and want to stay that De Fuentes is really searching for.
Based on her findings so far, De Fuentes sees a reoccurring narrative, "Whether someone lives in a city or the countryside, they are looking for a community with energy and economic activity. The wine industry is bringing new cultures, skills and perspectives to areas previously in population decline. And when people feel as though they belong and are part of the fabric of a community, place-making is achieved.
With two years as Saint Mary's prepares to open the new Sobeys Inspiration Hub in fall 2023, spaces like the Arthur L. Irving Entrepreneurship Centre and the David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services, will provide greater opportunities for De Fuentes to continue conversations about her research and professorship of rural revitalization in Nova Scotia.