Why McMaster donors give: David Daly

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McMaster graduate David Daly established an academic grant to help students who demonstrate financial need while pursuing graduate studies in Economics.

David Daly ’82 is interested in, well, pretty much everything.

He is a voracious learner who has earned graduate degrees in economics, business and musicology at universities in three provinces across more than four decades.

He is a trained opera singer and a successful energy sector professional.

He is also a philanthropist who supports a diverse array of causes using a variety of different approaches from monthly giving to charitable bequests.

Daly enrolled at McMaster to pursue his master of arts degree in economics before he had even seen the campus. When he arrived for the first time, “I fell in love with it right away.”

He relocated from his hometown of Montreal after completing his undergraduate degree in economics with a minor in music at McGill University.

At McMaster, he found a tight-knit group of fellow grad students.

“We really formed a small community,” Daly said.

It was a community that included not just his fellow students, but the department’s professors and staff as well. When he finished his master’s, Daly returned to McGill, where he earned an MBA before coming back to southern Ontario to work with Petro-Canada in Toronto.

Not long afterwards, a shocking event north of the city sparked what would become a nearly four-decade — and counting — philanthropic mission.

On May 31, 1985, a rare tornado scythed through the middle of Barrie, Ontario, about an hour’s drive north of Toronto. When the relief effort launched, Daly said, “I felt compelled to donate.”

Once he started giving to worthy causes, he didn’t stop. One of the organizations that has benefited consistently from Daly’s generosity is McMaster.

“I always believed that education, especially higher education, was important for people to be able to establish themselves as thinking, thoughtful professionals,” Daly said. “I’ve always been very grateful for the education I received, and I wanted to give back. I felt like I could do something to help other people.”

After a number of years of giving to McMaster, Daly saw an opportunity to do something special when, at the time, the province of Ontario offered matching funds for gifts that provided financial support to students.

“I thought scholarships were set up by people who were multimillionaires, and I was not,” Daly recalled. “But now I could do it in a way that was similar to what I had been doing with previous donations, but more structured.

“From my perspective, I could continue to contribute to the scholarship on a monthly basis. That works very well for me. Just thinking of budgeting and cash flow and it’s something I find very doable.”

In 2005, Daly — who had received financial support as a student at McMaster — created the David S. Daly Academic Grant to help students who demonstrate financial need while pursuing graduate studies in the department of Economics.

“I wanted to help other students who were coming to Mac,” he said.

“I felt that the whole field of economics is important for understanding how people relate to each other through economic activity, and how countries and nations relate to each other through economic activity. So, I wanted to put something in place that would help other people go into the field and make their mark.”

As the academic grant has created an expanding philanthropic legacy at McMaster over nearly two decades, Daly stepped away from his work in the energy sector and  engaged in his own “new frontier” as a musicology student at the University of Calgary, first as an undergraduate student and then a graduate student.

“I made up my mind to go in full steam,” he said.

He graduated with a bachelor of arts in 2021 and his master of arts in 2023 after completing a thesis titled Exoticism in Operatic Depiction of the Frontier West, with a focus on 20th-century Canadian opera.

It seems a perfectly diverse set of interests for a McMaster alumnus and donor with a relentless desire to explore.

Why McMaster donors give: At McMaster University, every single gift, no matter the size, has the potential to make a difference in the lives of our students, the quality of our research and our ability to give back to our community and influence the future. We asked some of our donors and their families what motivates them to give. These are their stories