MONTREAL -- A woman who had $2,000 when she arrived in Canada nearly 40 years ago has donated $15 million to Concordia University and had its faculty of engineering and computer science named after her.

Gina Cody, who in 1989 became the first woman to graduate with a PhD in building engineering from Concordia, forged a successful business career in Toronto after leaving Iran in 1979.

Concordia says it is the first university engineering faculty in Canada to be named after a woman.

"I arrived in Canada as a young student from Iran in 1979 with $2,000," Cody said in a statement released by Concordia.

"Concordia welcomed me and provided me with support that changed my life. My gift to the university is for the next generation, so that more people can succeed like I did."

The Montreal university said Cody's donation will fund graduate and undergraduate scholarships and bolster next-generation research on smart cities. It will also support three new research chairs.

"I want this donation to inspire other proud Concordia graduates to come forward," Cody said.

In its statement, Concordia quoted Engineers of Canada figures that state only 20 per cent of university engineering students are women, as well as data from Statistics Canada indicating just 12.8 per cent of working engineers are women.

Cody said she believes the best way for anyone to succeed is via higher education.

"University is a platform for women, people of colour, Indigenous populations and other minorities to pursue their dreams," she said.

Concordia president Alan Shepard called Cody a role model and described her generosity as a "watershed moment for engineering and computer science in Canada."