Photo: Owen Egan
When I was young, a relative asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up,” recalls Lorne Trottier, BEng’70, MEng’73, DSc’06. “I said, ‘A scientist,’ and he asked, ‘What type?’ That’s when it dawned on me that I had to choose.”
While Trottier elected to pursue electronics, the area that had first intrigued him, his youthful fascination with all things scientific and technological never abated. It persisted through his McGill studies, and fueled him as he co-founded the video-graphics company Matrox and nurtured it from its early days as a shoestring operation based in his apartment to over 35 years of sustained technological innovation and business success.
This same love for science and technology also lies behind his energetic support for McGill’s Faculties of Science and Engineering. Over the years, he has donated more than $40 million to his alma mater to support everything from new research chairs and graduate fellowships to the construction of the Lorne M. Trottier Building, now home to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the School of Computer Science. In 2011, he gave $5.5 million to endow the McGill Office for Science & Society and the popular Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium Series and Mini-Science Series, annual symposia that engage audiences and promote scientific debate.
His most recent gift, which totals $15 million, has endowed the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy in the Faculty of Science and created the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering. “Science and technology form the basis of our societies, so the public should have a greater appreciation and understanding of them. Even in western societies, we can see appalling and willful ignorance,” he says, pointing to resistance to evolution and denial of climate change.
The Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy will provide leadership in advancing science-driven policy while enhancing scientific literacy in the public at large. Through fellowships, undergraduate research awards and a host of activities, including public forums, publications and outreach initiatives, the institute will provide a unique nexus for discussion, training and advocacy, with the aim of having a positive impact on many of the important societal issues facing our country and our world.
“Universities have a role to play in raising the public level of understanding of science and technology and also in connecting science to public policy issues,” says Dean of Science Martin Grant. “The study of science at McGill owes a lot to the generosity of Lorne Trottier. In fact, I cannot imagine the Faculty of Science without him.”
Meanwhile, the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering will serve as an independent, fact-based think tank to better inform and educate decision-makers and the broad public about sustainability policy issues. Its programs, activities and services will not only make McGill a national leader in research and teaching in the area of sustainable engineering, but will extend its influence to other universities as well as federal and provincial government agencies and departments. The institute will also provide the critical objective information that citizens and decision-makers need.
“Dr. Trottier’s gift will provide tremendous impetus to professors and students who want to play a meaningful role in influencing public policy in the area of sustainability,” says Interim Dean of Engineering Andrew Kirk. “We’re excited by the opportunity that he is providing to make a real difference.”