Lives and Legacies: Neil Cochrane

Lifes and Legacies: Niel Cochrane

As a retired graphic designer, Neil Cochrane has a deep appreciation for good design. In fact, you could even say it’s in his blood. His family has been involved in design in one form or another—as gardeners, house decorators, and wallpaper printers—since the late 18th century.   

After moving to Toronto in 1970, his passion led him to the Royal Ontario Museum. He especially loves the Museum’s European collections and is happy to wander through the galleries among objects that have become much like old friends. “When we personally connect with a piece, its like we are speaking directly to the individuals who created them hundreds or thousands of years ago.”  

Over the years, Neil has deepened his connection to the ROM through the Currelly Legacy Society (CLS), a group of thoughtful donors who have made a future commitment to the Museum. With his gift, Neil will honour the memory of his late partner Ambrose Wah Hing Lo by creating a generous endowment in his name.  

Neil and Ambrose first met in 1981 and enjoyed 18 years together before the latter passed away. The endowment fund will allow the ROM to acquire new and significant examples of Chinese art—an area that was very close to Ambrose’s heart.  

Out of all the charities and causes he could have supported, Neil chose to give to the ROM because in his words, “while research gives us better and longer lives, art gives us a reason to live.” 

When he first established his endowment in 2005, Neil planned to finance it through a bequest in his will. But this year, he decided to activate the fund immediately with an outright gift.  

“I realized that I wanted to be able to see the impact of my donation in my lifetime,” says Neil. He also hopes others who knew Ambrose or share his passion for supporting the ROM’s Chinese collections will consider making a small yet meaningful contribution to help grow the fund. 

“To be able to create a permanent memorial to Ambrose while ensuring that future generations will enjoy the Chinese collection as he once did is just wonderful.” 

As a member of the Currelly Executive Committee, Neil is also a dedicated ambassador for the Museum. He has played a leadership role in thanking fellow members for their gift commitments as well as advancing CLS outreach to the LGBTQ community. 

Art has always played a central role in Neil’s life. Thanks to his generosity, the arts will continue to enrich the lives of the people of Ontario and beyond for years to come. If you would like to support Neil’s vision and help grow the Ambrose Wah Hing Lo Fund in support of Chinese acquisition at the ROM, please donate here. To learn more about leaving a legacy at the ROM, contact Janice Correa at