A shining example of York University’s leadership in partnering with international communities to build a better world and advance its global impact was celebrated April 25 with the official opening of the Lillian Meighen Wright Centre (LMWC), the landmark building of York’s EcoCampus in Costa Rica.
The Lillian Meighen and Don Wright Foundation’s transformational donation of $750,000 to the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) made it possible to purchase the property and to construct the Lillian Meighen Wright Centre in Costa Rica. The centre is located next to the 400-acre Las Nubes Forest Reserve, which is part of one of the largest rainforest ecosystems in Central America.
The 400-sq.-m. facility overlooks the Peñas Blancas River and serves as the epicenter of the EcoCampus, offering indoor classrooms and laboratories, an outdoor Indigenous classroom, an arboretum and botanical gardens. It will operate as a local, national and international hub dedicated to education and research on Neotropical conservation, eco-health, community wellbeing and sustainable livelihoods of those who live and work in the area.
It also serves as the new home of the Las Nubes Project – a mission under the direction of Professor Felipe Montoya, James and Joanne Love Chair in Neotropical Conservation, to contribute to community environmental well-being through faculty and student research, environmental education, and community engagement initiatives.
“Thank you all for being here today for a very special announcement and to celebrate with us some exciting news that will have a tremendous impact on the future of York University, the Faculty of Environmental Studies and the Las Nubes Project,” said FES Dean Noël Sturgeon during the on-site celebration.
Several guests travelled overseas to celebrate the centre’s opening, including York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Sturgeon, Dean Harvey Skinner, Larry Murray and Paul Marcus of The Lillian Meighen and Don Wright Foundation, Montoya, and key donors and supporters Dr. Woody Fisher and Valerie Grant, James and Joanne Love, Adrienne Perry and Don Downer, Anita McBride and Harriet Lewis.
Shoukri was invited to share a few words, and said York’s EcoCampus will advance the important work of the Las Nubes Project to promote healthy, gratifying and sustainable rural ways of life and protect the rainforest.
“The EcoCampus will deliver a meaningful experiential learning opportunity in a fascinating natural and cultural setting, where students will gain hands-on experience that not only helps them prepare for their careers but also to become engaged global citizens,” he said.
This May, the first group of students will head to the EcoCampus for 18 days, and beginning next year, students will have the opportunity to spend a semester there to learn about the rainforest, renewable energy, the environment, local culture, citizen science, marine biology, as well as community arts and health.
The facility will also benefit international researchers, writers, artists and performers as a destination for diverse seminars, congresses, retreats and residencies.
Sturgeon also took an opportunity during the celebration to present the Friends of the Faculty Award – an award established by FES in 2005 to recognize the generous contributions and support provided to the Faculty by one outstanding donor.
“This year, it is our pleasure to recognize The Lillian Meighen and Don Wright Foundation as the recipient for their generosity, high level of engagement and continued support,” she said, noting the foundation also contributes to the Faculty through volunteering, participating in advisory committees and facilitating student learning.
“Thank you to all who joined us here today in recognizing The Lillian Meighen and Don Wright Foundation for the contributions to develop this new facility, but also to all our donors who are in attendance and who have
contributed to Las Nubes Project,” said Sturgeon. “You are helping us to shape the global thinking that will define tomorrow.”
More than $8 million has been raised by generous donors for this project since its inception.
The official ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the facility’s opening was conducted by Shoukri, Sturgeon, Montoya, Murray and Marcus. To close out the celebration, internationally recognized musician Manuel Obregón gave a performance on the accordion that integrated visual images of Costa Rica.