Honouring the Killams on Philanthropy Day


On Philanthropy Day we honour our founders– Izaak Walton and Dorothy Johnston Killam.

Thanks to these two individuals close to 7,000 doctoral scholars, postdoctoral fellows and researchers from around the world have received support for their academic achievements in Canada.

The Killam Story
In 1922 Dorothy Brooks Johnston, a well-schooled and widely travelled American, married Izaak Walton Killam, a native of Yarmouth NS, and the leading Canadian industrialist and financier of the first half of the 20th Century. When Izaak Walton Killam died (purposely intestate) in1955 half of his estate (some $50 million dollars) went to Mrs. Killam.*  In the ten years between their deaths Mrs. Killam doubled her fortune enabling her to carry out their joint vision in her Will, to assist the arts, education and sciences and reduce, as Mrs. Killam put it, "the brain drain" from Canada. These lifetime and testamentary gifts totaled $105M when they were made in 1963 – 65, which is about $650 million in today’s money

Dorothy J Killam has changed the face of Canada.  Her influence on both the education of youth and the advancement of research in this country is immeasurable.  Although she died in 1965, her legacy lives on today through the Killam Trusts.  To date, regardless of citizenship, close to 7,000 young PhD students, faculty members and established researchers, who have devoted their lives to answering key academic and scientific issues, have been directly supported by Mrs. Killam’s legacy.  As Canada’s reputation for education and research continues to improve we can safely say the entire nation has benefitted from Mrs. Killam’s gift. 

In her own words:

“My purpose in establishing the Killam Trusts is to help in the building of Canada's future by encouraging advanced study... to increase the scientific and scholastic attainments of Canadians, to develop and expand the work of Canadian universities, and to promote understanding between Canadians and peoples of other countries.” 

The Killam Institutions

Mrs. Killam named six institutions as beneficiaries – chosen by virtue of where her husband had significant business interests during his lifetime.  These are:

The Canada Council administers the Killam funds privately, not as part of the Council’s public mandate in the arts.  There are two programs, open to scholars from all Canadian universities:
The Killam Prizes. Worth $100,000 each, one is awarded annually in the following fields: Health Sciences, Natural Sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities.  They are presented at Rideau Hall by the Governor General.  The only Killam awards open to Canadians only, the Canada Council Killam Prizes are sometimes referred to as “Canada’s Nobel Prizes” and are the leading Prizes in these fields.
Killam Research Fellowships.  These awards allow professors two-years of uninterrupted release time from academic duties to conduct a complex piece of research or write a scholarly text.

To learn more about the Killam program and history, please contact our Administrative Officer, Sarah Horrocks who will be happy to discuss any aspect of the Killam program with you.


* Interestingly because of the estate duties at the time upon his death the other half of Mr. Killam’s estate went to the federal government.  Prior to his death Mr. Killam, and Sir James Dunn, another wealthy Nova Scotian, had a handshake agreement with Louis St. Laurent, the Prime Minister at the time, who promised not to let their money ($50M each) seep into the public coffers without impact.  The combined $100M fortune from these two gentlemen was used to create the Canada Council for the Arts.