Robert Gillespie

Robert Gillespie
Place of Birth: 
Edinburgh, Scotland
Department / Division: 
Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre

If there had been an academic skills centre when I was a student, I might have had a more successful academic career.

Robert Gillespie

The Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre at U of T Mississauga is the namesake of a benefactor who would have liked to access similar services when he was a university student in Edinburgh. The centre “assists students in identifying and developing the academic skills they need for success in their studies. Staff members “work collaboratively with faculty and teaching assistants to help deliver the best possible environments in their classrooms, labs and tutorials.”

Gillespie, a professional engineer and the retired chief executive officer of General Electric Canada, says of such a facility, “It would have been a help to me as a student. I was not a good student. I felt too much emphasis was placed on learning by rote and not enough on reaching conclusions based on deduction, experience and collaborating with others.”

Gillespie immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. He took a job as an engineer with General Electric and remained there for his entire career, taking on increasingly larger challenges. He and his wife initially lived in Toronto, but as their family grew, they wanted a more rural setting for their children and moved to Mississauga. They have happily remained there ever since.

As GE’s executive vice-president at the time, Gillespie led the initiative to consolidate the company’s offices in the Greater Toronto Area, and “after careful a review of the situation,” GE located its Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, beginning the flow of major corporations to the area.

As Mississauga grew, Gillespie says he became increasingly aware of UTM’s importance to the city. When GE wanted to make a donation to a favourite cause upon his retirement, Gillespie specified the university, and the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre was born, also aided by a personal donation from him and his wife, Irene. They continue to support the centre annually.

“I am very proud to be involved with the university,” Gillespie says. “We are living in an era of technology and technological skills. It is important now that people get a well-grounded education in a field of interest. UTM will continue to expand and flourish.”


Selected Awards:

Honorary doctoral degree, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland

Gold Medal Award, Engineers Canada, for

International Businessman of the Year, Canadian Council for International Business

2015 inductee, Mississauga Legends Row, for contributions to business, innovation and science