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McGill is on track to be one of the top 10 public research universities in the world, and Principal Heather Munroe-Blum says that goal is within reach.
In delivering the inaugural Dorothy J. Killam Lecture at the Montreal Neurological Institute on Tuesday, Principal Munroe-Blum outlined her vision of McGill's leadership in this new era and the importance of promoting knowledge and learning.
"We stand on the shoulders of giants," she told some 300 people, referring to the personalities who have shaped McGill's history over the past 180 years, from James McGill to today's great leaders.
"The question is, what kind of human beings will we raise to stand on our shoulders? What will McGill do to explore the universe, eradicate disease, reduce poverty, enrich the arts, increase prosperity and elevate the value of tolerance as our primary human value?
"I make this simple pledge: McGill will rank with the very best public research–intensive universities in the world."
Principal Munroe-Blum said McGill has what it takes to be even greater than it is today.
"Research is vitally important. Research results in knowledge, and solutions, in every human endeavour. Ambitious research attracts the most talented professors, and the most promising students. Research is about pushing the limits of our imagination. The eureka moment does not occur in a vacuum — it requires diligence, it requires funding, it flourishes in a culture of optimism and excellence. "
She said the success of McGill in the future depends on research and academic excellence and pushing the boundaries of excellence even further, on attracting world-class professors and researchers and on creating programs that inspire students to "to build a stronger, healthier and more tolerant society, a society that cherishes life in a civil community." Essential to the equation is adequate funding to ensure a "critical mass of excellence," she said. In addition to government funding, private donors and partnerships are key to the university's success.
Principal Munroe-Blum also paid tribute to Dorothy and Izaac Walton Killam, who were successful Canadian business and financial figures in the first half of the 20th century, and who devoted their fortune to promoting scientific and scholastic achievement in Canada. Five Canadian universities, including McGill's Montreal Neurological Institute, were beneficiaries of Killam Scholarships. The prestigious Killam Prizes, administered by the Canada Council, are among the most generous in Canada.