In early 1878 Sutherland made a trip to Toronto, where he fell ill with pneumonia and died on June 2 in the Toronto General Hospital at the age of 48. He had drawn up his will three weeks before he died; having never married, and apparently having no close relatives, he left his entire estate, worth some $12,000, to the college. He was Queen’s first major benefactor.
George Grant, the new principal, had just begun his first fundraising campaign and was overjoyed at this important contribution to the urgently needed boost to the college finances. He ordered that a large granite tombstone (shown on this page, as no portrait of Robert Sutherland exists) be placed on Sutherland’s grave in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery in recognition of his importance in the history of Queen’s. Grant later wrote that Sutherland frequently spoke of always being “treated as a gentleman” at the College.
In 1973 the City of Kingston dedicated a plaque in Grant Hall in his memory, In the 1980s a group of students rediscovered Robert Sutherland, and worked hard to have his contribution to the university properly recognized. In 1996, the Robert Sutherland Task Force started a negotiation with the University and it was agreed to name a room in the John Deutsch University Centre in Sutherland's honour, which was dedicated in 1998. The Robert Sutherland Visitorship was established in 1997 to bring to the campus ‘a noted speaker
each year with expertise in the areas of equity, community diversity and race relations….
There also exists the possibility that the speaker could deliver his/her keynote address in
the Robert Sutherland space.’ A bursary and a prize are also awarded in memory of