2012 Endowment Campaign Launch

Towards a Chair in Finnish Studies

In 2012, the Canadian Friends of Finland Education Foundation publicly launched an Endowment Campaign to secure the program’s position at the University of Toronto, by funding in perpetuity a Chair in Finnish Studies.

Since 1989, Finnish Studies has received a large proportion of its funding from the Finnish government. In recent years, the global financial crisis has put pressure on a variety of funders to reduce their commitments. In light of this trend, the Canadian Friends of Finland Education Foundation recognized the need to increase its efforts to secure the position of Finnish Studies at U of T, before it is too late. In the spring of 2012, CFFEF commissioned Partners in Transformation, a firm with more than 25 years experience in the field, to conduct a fund raising planning study to determine the best way forward.

Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland, speaks at the public launch of the Endowment Campaign at the historic Albany Club in Toronto, September 15th, 2012.

The study demonstrated sufficient support from a broad range of corporate, foundation and individual funders in both Canada and Finland who believe in the importance and indeed priority of this initiative. At the same time, it discovered a strong, articulated interest on the part of both the Finnish and Canadian governments to deepen their relationship in a variety of concrete ways, with a specific focus on the role of higher education in facilitating knowledge transfer, and economic and cultural exchange. This is particularly evidenced in Finland’s Canada Action Plan entitled “Finland and Canada: Northern Partners (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland: December 2011).

The study recommended that CFFEF launch a $5 million endowment campaign forthwith to endow a permanent Chair of Finnish Studies, to capitalize on the current opportunity.

CFFEF soon raised nearly $1 million in support of this initiative, and continued efforts to raise the balance of $4 million, under the distinguished leadership of International Campaign Chair, Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland. The campaign also received the official endorsement of Canada’s Ambassador to Finland, His Excellency Chris Shapardanov. The campaign was publicly launched in Finland and Canada in September 2012.

The main goal of the endowment campaign is simple: to raise $5 million to establish an endowment to fund a Chair in Finnish Studies at the University of Toronto in perpetuity. By definition, an endowment is a pool of funds raised by a non-profit organization which is invested, and which generates interest or ongoing income to the non-profit for a designated  purpose. The principal is never spent, allowing for its continual re-investment and growth over time. The establishment of a Chair in Finnish Studies will preserve and expand the study of Finnish language, culture and society at U of T, securing the program’s status as the most comprehensive of its kind in North America. CFFEF’s vision is to build upon the program’s designation as a Centre of Excellence, through a number of possible means.

Launch Event
The public event to launch the Endowment Campaign initiative took place on September 15th, 2012 at the historic Albany Club in Toronto. Speakers included:

  • Shawn Saulnier, Senior Advisor, Canadian Friends of Finland Education Foundation
  • Dr. Sheila Embleton, President, Canadian Friends of Finland Education Foundation
  • Esko Aho, International Campaign Chair, Canadian Friends of Finland Education Foundation & Prime Minister of Finland (1991-1995)
  • His Excellency Chris Shapardanov, Canada's Ambassador to Finland
  • His Excellency Charles Murto, Finland's Ambassador to Canada
  • Dr. Börje Vähämäki, Founder and Past Director (1989-2009), Finnish Studies Program, University of Toronto
  • Rachelle Pascoe-Deslauriers, Finnish Studies Program Alumna, University of Toronto ('08)

Watch a video of the launch of this campaign:


The Canadian Friends of Finland Education Foundation is a registered charitable organization (889034799 RR 0001) founded in 1990 for the sole purpose of supporting the Finnish Studies Program at the University of Toronto.

U of T Finnish Studies Program

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