McMaster grad launched a scholarship for resilient engineering students. That fund got a big boost

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The last thing Sonia Sennik expected when she gifted $40,000 to launch a scholarship for engineering students at McMaster University was for that pledge to increase sevenfold — and not on her own dime.

Sennik, a McMaster engineering physics graduate, saw her standalone gift balloon to a more than $300,000 endowed fund last week after dozens of her colleagues unexpectedly chipped in.

Among the international network of donors to the fund were astronaut Chris Hadfield and Twitter chairperson Patrick Pichette, not to mention scores of other non-McMaster grads.

“It’s just incredible to feel the enthusiasm for the future of McMaster engineering students,” said Sennik, executive director of Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), a non-profit that helps kick-start and commercialize seed-stage STEM startups.

The new fund — coined the Sonia Sennik Resilience Fund — will provide an $8,000 entrance scholarship to a first-year engineering student who shows resiliency and character in the face of hardship.

Initially, Sennik planned the scholarship to accommodate five different students over five years.

But the wave of generous pledges from her colleagues at CDL, and the fund reaching endowed status, means it will operate in perpetuity.

Sennik said the fund is designed to help students in their formative years during university, a time when development of leadership is crucial.