(Photo: Submitted. The late D’Arcy Sweeney, pictured here with his wife, Virginia, has left a legacy gift of $200,000 to support USask students in financial need.)
The late D’Arcy Sweeney, pictured here with his wife, Virginia, has left a legacy gift of $200,000 to support USask students in financial need. (Photo: Submitted)

Sweeney legacy gift to support bursaries for engineering students at USask

A legacy gift from D’Arcy John Milton Sweeney (BE'47) will provide $200,000 in bursary funding for students who demonstrate extreme financial need during their studies at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

By Sarah Trefiak

Sweeney, a child of the Great Depression, was born in Blaine Lake, Sask., in 1926. His family moved to nearby Marcelin, Sask., in 1929 before settling in Prince Albert, Sask., in 1935. Despite living near the poverty line and at times, struggling to find enough to eat, Sweeney was able to graduate from high school at the age of 16 before moving to Saskatoon, Sask., to further his education at USask.

After receiving his mechanical engineering degree from the College of Engineering in 1947, Sweeney moved to Walkerville (now Windsor), Ont., where mechanical engineering jobs were in abundance. He began his career with The Percy Alcomb Engineering Company and later moved to Chrysler overseeing parts redesign. It was there that he met his wife, Virginia.

In 1950, Sweeney was hired by Trane Company of Canada, a worldwide heating and air conditioning manufacturer, and was eventually given the opportunity to take over the Toronto franchise, leading to the establishment of D’Arcy Sweeney Ltd. in 1957.

“Like many successful people, he made the most of his opportunities,” said Sweeney’s son, Gary, “but he also worked diligently to maximize those opportunities in a Toronto market that was poised to undergo a boon in construction and development over the next several decades.”

Gary believes that his father’s strong work ethic developed at a very young age. Sweeney witnessed his father, a self-taught electrician, wire the Prince Albert Penitentiary and watched his mother, a midwife, work tirelessly to make ends meet for their family as well as pay for his education at USask.

Gary has continued that tradition of hard work, joining the family business at age 15 and later facilitating the company’s expansion across Canada. Gary worked alongside his father from 1970 until Sweeney’s passing on July 19, 2023, at the age of 97.

When asked why he thought his father was so passionate about giving back to USask, Gary explained that for his father, moving to Saskatoon was truly a life changing experience.

“When he got to Saskatoon, his eyes opened,” Gary said. “Indoor plumbing was a novelty to him, there were student cafeterias where he could get regular meals – the cosmopolitan nature of Saskatoon was truly a turning point for him,” he said.

“The University of Saskatchewan provided him with that environment to grow,” said Gary, “and he wanted to give that same opportunity his parents gave him to someone in authentic financial need.”

Gary recalled how his father valued the support of his family and friends above all else and that giving back to his communities, one of which was USask, was his way of passing on the support he had received in his life.

“Words were never as good as his deeds and that is best exemplified by his desire to establish these memorial bursaries,” he said.

Gary said his father would have been happy to support the large goal of USask’s $500 million Be What the World Needs campaign, but for Sweeney, it was always about the individual.

“Knowing that this gift will provide even one student with a better life, would have made my father very proud.”

Together we will support and inspire students to succeed. We invite you to join by supporting current and future students' needs at USask.