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Gift to support science lab renovations encourages young innovators

Son’s “mad scientist” experiments inspires John Francis’s and Susan Caskey’s gift of $250,000 to support “iDiv” renovations

Lots of teens post photos on Facebook that would surprise or even shock their parents. So imagine John Francis’s and Susan Caskey’s reaction when friends called to tell them about the image Will had selected as his profile image. There he was at the family cottage, age 12 at the time — shooting 12-foot flames into the lake from a garden-variety water gun.

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“Our friend told us to check out what Will had been up to by way of unauthorized science experiments,” says Susan. (Apparently, a combination of bug spray and a lighter had done the trick.) “For obvious reasons we didn’t allow him to take bug spray to Norval that year even though the packing list called for it.”

When considering a gift to their son’s school it was a natural move, therefore, to consider his talents. Hence, the family donated $250,000 this past summer to support Will’s natural enthusiasms; he’s now in Year 2 and the family has chosen to direct its gift to Upper School renovations and name a science lab.

“Will had a wonderful experience over eight years at the Prep and we wanted to recognize that by giving back,” says John. As past chair of the SickKids Foundation’s board of directors and a trustee of that hospital, he places huge value on encouraging innovation in health care and science research from a young age.

“There was definitely room for improvement in the learning environment of the science labs,” he says. “It’s hard for kids to stay focused with so much competing for their attention. The vibrancy of the room, even little things like good air flow and temperature control, play a big role. We want to do our part to enable young people to achieve their goals.”

Says Susan: “We feel more comfortable knowing Will has those opportunities in the right setting — with safety glasses.”

John and Susan have three teenaged children: Will, Kaitlyn and Jessica.