A $2-million endowed gift from graduate William Seath, BEng’52, will now allow McGill’s Faculty of Engineering to place greater emphasis on the “development” aspect of research and development, and take far-reaching initiatives to foster deeper knowledge, encourage entrepreneurial start-ups, increase industry partnerships, and advance the Quebec and Canadian economies.
$2-million gift from William Seath supports
university-industry collaboration and entrepreneurship
As one of the world’s great research-intensive universities,
McGill serves as an important incubator of innovation. But as is
the case with many post-secondary institutions, limited resources
have sometimes hampered the University’s ability to take new
technologies and discoveries from the lab to the commercial
A $2-million endowed gift from graduate William Seath, BEng’52,
will now allow McGill’s Faculty of Engineering to place greater
emphasis on the “development” aspect of research and development,
and take far-reaching initiatives to foster deeper knowledge,
encourage entrepreneurial start-ups, increase industry
partnerships, and advance the Quebec and Canadian economies.
The new William and Rhea Seath Awards in Engineering Innovation
will support and recognize annually two outstanding individuals in
the Faculty of Engineering ─ either undergraduate students,
graduate students or professors ─ who are conducting groundbreaking
research with the potential for entrepreneurship.
Another portion of the gift will be used to support a full-time
Industrial Research Development and Engagement Officer in the
Faculty of Engineering. This new position will form the basis of
the new Innovations Catalyst in Engineering hub, which will promote
the commercialization of cutting-edge research; forge stronger
bonds with industry; administer the William and Rhea Seath Awards
and mentor students; generate industrial research contracts for
McGill; and help researchers develop new spin-off companies based
on their intellectual work.
“I wanted my gift to benefit not only McGill, but also industry
and the economy,” says Seath. “It is my hope that this support will
provide the University with the resources to spark new discoveries
and then apply this knowledge in concrete ways, rather than simply
doing science for the sake of science.”
The much-needed philanthropic injection comes just weeks after
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to make innovation a
key element in the upcoming federal budget. The country is
currently a “D” performer and ranks 14th among 17 OECD member
nations when it comes to innovation, according to studies conducted
by the Conference Board of Canada.
Professor Andrew Kirk, Interim Dean of the Faculty of
Engineering, says the gift will spark a culture change that is
critically important to McGill’s future. “It will enable us to be
proactive in establishing industry-university partnerships; assist
in generating revenue and encourage and nurture innovation among
students and professors alike. It will also serve students as a
path for employment and, most importantly, spark a culture change
that is critically important to McGill Engineering’s future.”
An aviation engineer by trade, Seath spent his entire 39-year
career with Pratt & Whitney Canada, the country’s largest
designer and manufacturer of gas turbine engines. He retired as
vice-president in 1991 and currently lives in Kingston, Ont. His
wife, Rhea, passed away in 2006 and the initiatives are meant in
part as a tribute to her.
Seath’s reason for choosing to invest in McGill is simple:
“Without my McGill engineering degree, I don’t know what I would
have done with my life,” he says.
McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum praised
Seath for his unwavering dedication to his alma mater. “McGill is
fortunate to have donors like William Seath who possess the
foresight to encourage and empower our students and professors to
drive research, discovery and commercialization,” she says. “His
visionary investment will ensure that our University can further
work with industry to eliminate barriers to successful knowledge
exchange and ensure that innovation is promoted, for the benefit of
all Quebecers and Canadians.”
This latest gift adds to the momentum of Campaign McGill:
History in the Making, which is raising the funds needed to attract
and retain top students and faculty, increase access to quality
education, and ensure that McGill remains one of the world’s great
research-intensive and student-centred universities.
For more information on the McGill Faculty of Engineering, visit
For more information on Campaign McGill, visit www.mcgill.ca/campaign.