30 Year History

Meeting of the minds sparks bold vision for UBC

In 1991, Vancouver entrepreneur Peter Wall and UBC President David Strangway met for a series of conversations about the future of UBC and their shared goal of catapulting the institution to the top tier of North American universities. Out of these discussions emerged the idea of a basic research institute that would fund UBC scholars to enable groundbreaking interdisciplinary research.

Dr. Strangway asked Dr. John Grace, the dean of Graduate Studies, to convene and chair a coordinating committee, comprised of UBC scholars and representatives from the Wall family, to consider various models for an institute for advanced study and develop a proposal for its initial mandate and governance.

An extensive review of research institutes in North America and Europe led to the establishment of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC, supported by Peter’s financial contribution—the largest donation ever received by UBC from an individual.

The Institute’s commitment to excellence and interdisciplinarity was exemplified by the appointment of Nobel Laureate Dr. Michael Smith and Dr. Raphael Amit as the first Peter Wall Distinguished Professors, followed by internationally noted scholars Dr. Brett Finlay and Dr. Derek Gregory. Dr. Smith also inspired the renovation and re-opening of the University Centre, the former Faculty Club, an initiative largely funded by the Institute and championed by Peter Wall. 

Over 30 years, the Institute distributed through its programs over $40 million in grants. It supported hundreds of UBC, Canadian, and international scholars, and it has engaged with the broader community through sponsorships, events, publications, and other forums. 

The power of the endowment thrives. With a current value in excess of $100 million, the Peter Wall Legacy Fund in support of prestigious Wall Fellowships and Wall Research Awards for UBC faculty and students launched in 2024. These awards offer UBC scholars the opportunities to help create sustainable solutions in BC to some of the greatest challenges of our times.

PHOTO: Peter Wall (L), Michael Smith (R)

“Peter Wall’s sustained and generous investment in UBC has profoundly impacted the university’s scholarly community – and the communities we serve. The Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies helped shape the intellectual landscape of UBC, strengthened the university’s global reputation, and brought Peter Wall’s game-changing investment in interdisciplinary scholarship to fruition. The enduring impact of the endowment will continue to thrive into the future through the Peter Wall Legacy Fund and the Wall Fellowships and Wall Research Awards.”

– Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon, President and Vice-Chancellor, UBC

The Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies completed its programming in 2023.