Racha Cheaib
Racha Cheaib, BSc’08, MSc’11 (right), recipient of the Women in Science Fellowship, was one of many science students to receive a financial award over the course of Campaign McGill.

The science of student success

What’s it like traveling across Canada to attend university? Thrilling, explains geology major Andreas Goetz, but tough on the pocketbook. “Voyaging across the country every year from my hometown of Saskatoon to go to university in Montreal puts some definite pressure on; it’s tough to scrape enough money together to make it through every semester,” he says.

Fortunately, Goetz received a scholarship funded through a $4.1-million gift from Robert Wares, BSc’79, and the Osisko Mining Corporation, which has helped make his studies less of a financial burden. “The scholarship has been a very valued contribution,” he says. “Life has been made a lot easier.”

A portion of the gift was matched by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, whose transformative gift of $20 million in 2008 to support students builds on decades of outstanding contributions in funding scholarships, bursaries and other awards.

An important feature is that $17 million of this commitment is a “challenge fund” – it has been earmarked for matching gifts dollar for dollar from new donors, and inspiring existing donors to give more than they have been able to in the past. Some $13 million of the fund finances scholarships, student advising, internships and fieldwork activities.

Two alumni who benefited from the generosity of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation during their own time as students have also remembered the Faculty of Science in a big way.

Richard Hart, PhD’70, MBA’73, who received support from the Foundation as a graduate student, has donated $1.2 million to create the Molson and Hilton Hart Fellowships, which recognize the scholarship and academic achievements of graduate students.

Meanwhile, Rubin Gruber, BSc’65, who credits a four-year bursary from the Foundation for allowing him to attend McGill, established the Rubin Gruber Scholarship with an initial donation in 1997 and has grown the endowment over the years with additional contributions totaling close to $1 million.

Gruber says his reasons for giving back to the University are simple. “There’s nothing better than helping others in the same situation that I was in,” he explains. “The feeling is absolutely amazing. I can’t imagine a more satisfying thing to do.”