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Russ Edwards School of Agriculture & Environment named at Assiniboine: $4M gift from Edwards family to advance college’s vision for ag education

Russ Edwards Speaking

Assiniboine Community College announced today the naming of the Russ Edwards School of Agriculture & Environment.

The college has been growing its agriculture and environment programming to help address skills shortages in this key economic sector. Further, agriculture and food is the largest area of applied research at Assiniboine. The college has been fundraising for a new Prairie Innovation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, which will enable further education, research and industry engagement. The formal naming of the School represents another step in this journey.

Russ Edwards, founder and owner of WGI Westman Group, has been a leader in the business community for nearly 50 years, and a champion at the forefront of the agricultural sector across the Prairies.

Edwards’ business roots stem back to his first business in Winnipeg in 1976, constructing culverts, steel roofing, and siding. In the 45 years following, WGI Westman Group has carved out a remarkable and uncharted path under Edwards’ leadership. It has grown into one of Canada’s largest manufacturers of steel products.

Edwards announced today a gift of $4 million dollars towards the school.

“This is an incredible gift, and we are eternally grateful to Mr. Edwards and his family for their commitment to help us build unparalleled educational opportunities in Manitoba,” said Tim Hore, Dean of Russ Edwards School of Agriculture & Environment. “It will have a long-lasting impact as our college continues to advance its vision for leadership in agricultural education.”

This is the first time the college has named one of its academic schools after an individual. Assiniboine has a long and dedicated history of delivering agricultural and environmental education throughout the province, with some of its longest-standing programs focused on agriculture and related training.

“Growing up on a farm in La Broquerie, Manitoba, I learned about caring for the land, planting seeds, and watching them grow. With Westman Steel and Behlen Industries both headquartered here in Brandon, Manitoba, some of the early seeds of WGI Westman Group’s success were planted right here in this community,” said Edwards, Chairman of WGI Westman Group Inc. “In fact, my wonderful wife Edna received her nursing degree in the very building in which we now make this announcement.”

“My family and I are incredibly grateful to now be in the position to make this donation to the School and establish the Russ Edwards School of Agriculture and Environment,” Edwards added. “I hope generations of students will be able to use the knowledge gained here to plant their own seeds of success as well.”

Incredibly hardworking, yet modest in his success as an entrepreneur and generosity as a lifelong philanthropist, Edwards embodies the essence of staying true to Prairie roots and principles.

“We are honoured that Mr. Edwards would allow us to include his name so prominently in a school so core to our vision for the college,” said Mark Frison, President of Assiniboine. “We feel deeply moved that Russ recognizes our college’s efforts to date and shares our vision for the future. As Manitoba’s ag college, this commitment and naming designation will elevate Assiniboine’s prominence in training and applied research efforts for years to come,” Frison added.

The gift will help advance priorities for the Russ Edwards School of Agriculture and Environment, including the Prairie Innovation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture—the college’s cornerstone project to address critical labour shortages, advance applied research, and facilitate industry engagement. To date, Assiniboine has raised more than $16 million dollars through its Ag Belongs Here campaign.

Video from the announcement: