One of the men behind the ridesharing company Uber has given back to his hometown with a massive multi-million dollar donation to the Central Library that was also given in honour of his mother.

Conrad Whelan announced a gift of $5M to help fund the Patricia A. Whelan Performance Centre at the library that opened early last month.

He says he wanted to give back to the community and remember the positive impact his mother, who died last year, had on his life.

“She used to take us to the Shaganappi Library. My love of reading and books has always been there. There’s so many things about this decision that just feel right for me in so many ways.”

Ellen Humphrey, president and CEO of the Calgary Public Library Foundation, says the donation is the largest that the organization has ever received in its history, but it has more significance than just its dollar value.

“It’s the interest that Conrad is showing in an institution like the Calgary Public Library. He was a user as a child; he wants to honour his mother who was instrumental in his exposure to the library and as a result of that he has a connection and it’s that connection that we really value.”

She says that the performance hall is a perfect way for Whelan to honour his mother, considering her love of the arts in Calgary.

“She was a culture buff, I suppose you would say, so the performance hall, where a whole lot of activities take place, is a very fitting way for her to be honoured.”

Humphrey says that Calgarians everywhere are enjoying the library and it is the best way that people can recognize the value of libraries in the community.

“Of course there are books here and other materials that we are familiar with, but there are so many other services and programs that Calgarians are using and have used since opening day on November 1.”

Whelan says that philanthropy has always been important to him because it’s a way to fill gaps for organizations.

“Philanthropy, obviously, is one part of the capitalistic coin. There is the making and earning of money and then there is putting that money towards good use,” he says. “A public library would be a hard thing to make money doing, providing this sort of community space and hub.”

The performance hall has been used a multitude of times since the library opened and it will continue to be a venue for many other important cultural events as the days go on.

(With files from Stephanie Wiebe)