By Alysha A. Cunningham
Photos by Justin Tang

On September 21, the Carleton community celebrated the official opening of the Nicol Building, a year late due to the pandemic. The beautiful facility is full of life and bustling with the creative energy of students, innovators and changemakers challenging what’s possible.

This is the atmosphere the building’s namesake, the late Wes Nicol, a Carleton alumnus who founded Tartan Homes, a leading Ottawa developer, had hoped for when he and his family’s $10-million gift kick-started the fundraising campaign for the new building in 2014.

“I am in the business of building homes. Homes enable co-operation and confidence, which in turn inspire bold ideas and brilliant thinking,” said Nicol, who passed away in 2016.

The Nicol Building is now home to the Sprott School of Business, which includes the cross-faculty Innovation Hub and Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub—making it a key focus of entrepreneurial culture at Carleton.

Mary Nicol and family members standing in front of the Wes Nicol sign in the new Nicol building.

Mary Nicol (centre) with family members Kathy Brown and Joan Robertson.

From its central location on campus, the Nicol Building provides a place where students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community can engage, share ideas and find creative solutions to the challenges facing business and society.

“The Nicol Building is a wonderful home for the Sprott School of Business,” says Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Carleton’s President and Vice-Chancellor, “But it is also a place where our whole community—Carleton and beyond—can learn, grow, work together and build meaningful relationships that will help shape our community and world.”

Due to gathering restrictions, plans for a grand opening had to be postponed—until the fall when Carleton students, faculty and staff were joined by donors, alumni, members of the diplomatic community and leaders across Ottawa’s diverse and enterprising community in the building’s atrium, known as the ‘hive’, to look towards the future of business at Carleton and to honour the visionaries, like Wes Nicol, who made it possible.

Carleton's Provost on stage in the atrium providing a speech in front of a screen with an image of Wes Nicol.

Nicol graduated with a BA from Carleton in 1954 and was a long-time volunteer with Carleton’s Board of Governors. He focused his philanthropy on nurturing entrepreneurship across Canada and at Carleton. This included the establishment of the Nicol Entrepreneurial Award and the Nicol Entrepreneurial Institute—an initiative he established with two gifts of $1 million each to nurture student entrepreneurship in all faculties.

“Wes Nicol’s legacy of bold thinking, impact and entrepreneurial spirit is everywhere in the building and will carry on in the generations of students who will call the Nicol Building home,” said Dana Brown, Sprott’s dean in her welcoming remarks.

Designed by Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects, the award-winning 115,000-square-foot facility embodies Nicol’s spirit and vision for Carleton to be known as an innovative, creative, sustainable and socially responsible university. Configured around a central hive, the building balances presence with intimacy. It is a purpose-built space with a sustainable design from core to skin which achieved a 4.5 rating from Green Globes, a nationally recognized environmental building certification.

“My dad lived with very high expectations. On his behalf, and on behalf of all of his family, I can safely say that this building has exceeded them. Were he here, he would be exceedingly proud and grateful,” says Bruce Nicol, president of Tartan Homes.

Mary Nicol, Eric Sprott and the Class of ’65 were front and centre at the commemorating event, which was followed by a panel discussion on “The Power and Potential of Education to Create a Better World”.

Commerce Class of 1965, Eric Sprott and members of the university leadership team standing on the staircase.

Commerce Class of ’65 and Eric Sprott with members of Carleton’s leadership team.

“We are grateful for the wonderful opportunities to work, learn and connect in our beautiful new Nicol Building,” said Brown. “Thank you to the Nicol family, for the vision and passion of Wes Nicol who was an advocate and supporter of innovation in education, and to all of donors and supporters who are with us in our exciting journey.”

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