14:34 PM

Five Mohawk students complete IBM Master the Mainframe Contest (Part 2)

The following story ran in today's Hamilton Spectator:

Harold Cummings followed with interest while a major new institution was taking shape near his house on the west Mountain.

It was back in the late 1960s, and Mohawk College was emerging just a few blocks from the Cummings family home on Bendamere Avenue.

Few could have guessed the general accountant would amass a tidy fortune and one day give $4 million to the college - its largest gift ever.

Cummings, who died in 2009, had not been a high-profile businessman, but he was apparently a very good one.

He had worked most of his career as business manager for Fleming Motors in Hagersville. Just like his father, a grocer, he quietly invested his money. It was a hobby they embraced enthusiastically.

His daughter, Gaye, grew up to become a librarian at the college, and when he asked her to help him choose a good place for a philanthropic gift, she mentioned that the college was thinking of building a new library.

Mohawk had grown considerably by then and libraries were changing everywhere. Cummings understood and agreed.

A strong believer in education, and particularly in community colleges, he took up his daughter's suggestion.

That new library is now open and full of students, the heart of the college's bustling new Learning Exchange - the airy new $16.5-million addition facing Fennell Avenue.

The Learning Exchange also includes a research and innovation lab, modern active learning classrooms and a long, glass-walled corridor that links to the original building.

The project was funded by provincial infrastructure cash and Cummings' gift, and is the first of two major stages in the renewal of Mohawk's Fennell campus, which will create space for 2,000 more students.

The second stage, which will centralize student services in the old library, is under way.

College brass, Hamilton municipal leaders and MPPs and the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities officially opened the 40,000-square-foot Learning Exchange Thursday. The library there is now called the Harold Cummings Library and Collaboratory, where Gaye still works.

"Mr. Cummings has given generations of students a remarkable new space to learn, collaborate and create," said college president Rob MacIsaac.

Near the end of the official remarks at the opening, city councillor Terry Whitehead told the story of that gift and asked Cummings' daughter and three granddaughters - Carlyn, Lesley and Meredith - to stand and be recognized, which they appeared to do somewhat reluctantly, as they are modest people.

"I'm sure my dad would have loved to be here to see it," Gaye said afterward. "He would have enjoyed watching the building go up - the whole thing."