GUELPH – The University of Guelph will use the largest donation in its history to help finance Canada’s first cancer centre for animals.

Canadian businesswoman Mona Campbell, who died last May, left $7.5 million to the university’s Ontario Veterinary College, which will use half the money for animal welfare programs and half for the cancer centre.

“She was an animal lover. That was her connection to the University of Guelph,” Ontario Veterinary College dean Elizabeth Stone said yesterday. “Mona Campbell gave us these funds to help strengthen and enhance what we are already doing. It also shows that she valued what we are doing.”

Stone said the cancer centre’s first stage, a public clinic, is expected to be up and running by late 2011.

“Without a doubt” this helps speed things up, Stone said.

The other half of Campbell’s donation goes toward animal welfare programs, with one direct result being the addition of a new teaching position, Stone said.

Campbell died at age 89 in South Carolina, where she had lived for many years.

She was chair and CEO of Dover Industries, a company she inherited from her father when she was 33. At the time of her death the company was Canada’s largest flour-milling company. She was also the first female director of the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

Campbell and her late husband had a history of supporting the veterinary college over the past 20 years, with more than $1 million in donations. She was given an honorary degree by the University of Guelph in 1994.

The veterinary college’s Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare is named in memory of Campbell’s late husband.

Stone said the school is already considered a leader in the area of companion animal welfare and this gift will help strengthen an already strong program.