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McGill alumnus John E. Cleghorn, OC, FCA, BCom (McGill) is one of Canada's most respected corporate philanthropic leaders, who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to higher education. Cleghorn has been making history at McGill since 1960 when he was a defensive lineman for the Redmen football team that won the national championship, marking the beginning of four decades of service to his alma mater.
Cleghorn served as CEO of Royal Bank of Canada from 1994 until his retirement in 2001. He led the company to record-setting profits while expanding the bank's reach into the U.S. market. During his time at the bank, Mr. Cleghorn was hailed as a champion of corporate restraint and accessible leadership. He sold the bank's corporate jet, closed the executive dining room, and eliminated the use of the bank's executive limousines. He frequently rode the subway or flew in economy class, using such opportunities to interact with his bank's customers. A hallmark of his leadership was his insistence that all top Royal Bank executives spent 25% of their time with front-line staff and clients.
Cleghorn has chaired many organizations, including the National Gallery of Canada Foundation and the Montreal YMCA. A long-standing member of McGill's Board of Governors, Cleghorn led the university's last capital campaign, the Twenty-First Century Fund. The campaign set a national record at the time, obtaining $205 million in support. From 1996 to 2003, Cleghorn was chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University, where he and his wife Pattie donated $1 million for student and teaching initiatives. At McGill, the Cleghorns helped create the McGill Sports Centre's Cleghorn Hyperbaric Oxygen Laboratory and the Pattie Cleghorn Fund in Diabetes Research at the Polypeptide Hormone Laboratory. John Cleghorn is currently chairman of the board of SNC-Lavalin Group and director for several major firms, including Canadian Pacific Railway, Finning International, Molson and Nortel Networks. Cleghorn was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2001.