Robert Sutherland is the first black person to graduate from a British-North American university and be called to the bar of Upper Canada in 1852.
Robert Sutherland was Canada’s first university student, graduate, and lawyer of colour, and Queen University’s first major benefactor during a time of financial crisis. He studied at Osgoode Law School and practiced law for 20 years in Walkerton, Ontario.
Without Robert Sutherland, there would be no Queen’s University. They are only here today because of his gift! He was fundamentally important to the long-term survival of that institution.
One hundred thirty-one years after his death, Robert Sutherland has returned to Queen’s. The Board of Trustees unanimously voted On Feb. 23, 2009 in favour of a student-initiated motion to rename the Policy Studies building Robert Sutherland Hall to honour his legacy of been Queen’s first major
Queen’s University was suffering severe financial hardship. Upon his death in 1878, he left his entire estate $12,000 which at the time was equal to the University’s annual operating budget to Queen’s and by doing so prevent them from going under and merging with the University of Toronto due to lack of funds.
A $12,000 scholarship exist for Queen’s students who are descendants of the Atlantic slave trade.