Canadian billionaire Ron Joyce, who built a fortune by turning Tim Hortons into an iconic Canadian brand, shared some of his success Thursday by giving the University of Windsor $10 million to be used towards bursaries for financially challenged students from the area.

The $10-million, lump-sum gift is the single largest donation in the 157-year history of the university and will be the seed money to create the Ed Lumley Bursary.

Lumley is chancellor of the university, a close personal friend of Joyce and a member of the executive board of The Joyce Foundation.

“This is the first of many we plan to do,” the 84-year-old Joyce said. “There’s a real need for it in many communities.

“It’s nice to be able to give back to kids who might not be able to attend school. I hope down the line, some kids who receive these bursaries get in touch to let me know how they’re doing.”

Windsor is the first university at which The Joyce Foundation has created this type of bursary. The number of bursaries to be awarded annually is yet to be determined.

“It’s a historic gift in terms of the university’s history,” said Dr. Alan Wildeman, University of Windsor president and vice-chancellor.

“There are students in Essex County today that these bursaries will be a major stepping stone in their lives.”

Joyce has a long history of generous donations to aid children and education in particular.

While CEO of Tim Hortons, Joyce created Tim Hortons Children’s Camps for disadvantaged children. He’s also written two $10-million cheques in support of programming at McMaster University.

Joyce also was a donor to the University of Windsor’s fundraising campaign to build the new engineering building where Thursday’s announcement was made.

“I started the Tim Hortons camps for disadvantaged kids nine to 12 years old so they could experience and learn about this country,” said Joyce, who became sole owner of Tim Hortons in 1974.

“This is another step, more with the senior kids getting to go to university. We all know it has become awfully expensive.

“I’ve dedicated my life to trying to help kids get a higher education.”

Lumley said some bursary money will be given out this year, but the plan will roll out in its entirety next year. The plan is flexible enough that partial bursaries can be given out based on circumstances.

Lumley added the idea of bursaries had been discussed for some time by The Joyce Foundation. However, Joyce surprised him one day at a meeting.

“He said, ‘Ed, you’ve been on the foundation’s board for years and never taken a dime,” recalled Lumley, a former federal Liberal cabinet minister and a member of several major corporate boards of directors.

“‘Let’s start these bursaries in Windsor in your name with $1 million.’ Then he paused for a moment and changed it to $10 million.

“Who would’ve thought a truck washer from Windsor would be standing here with a bursary named after him.”

In addition to demonstrating financial need and being a high school graduate from Windsor/Essex County, a student must have a mentor, have passing grades at the university, participate in extracurricular activities and undergo an annual review to maintain their bursary.

Eligible students could receive a maximum of $8,000 per year for four years.

“A gift of this size allows us to create a bursary that could give a student $32,000 over four years,” Wildeman said.

“For many students from Essex County living at home, that’s an opportunity to graduate debt free.”

Wildeman said the university will honour Joyce’s generosity by renaming its new Innovation Centre on Wyandotte Street after him. It will now be known as the Joyce Entrepreneurship Centre.