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Though often best remembered for the eponymous college he founded in 1906, Sir William C. Macdonald played a pivotal role in the evolution of McGill University into the world-renowned institution it is today.
That's at least one of the lessons contained in author William Fong's newly released Sir William C. Macdonald: A Biography, a point driven home by the fact the Sept. 24 book launch took place in McGill's downtown Macdonald Engineering building.
"Sir William was about more than Macdonald College; he was about McGill," said Chandra Madramootoo, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and master of ceremonies for the launch, organized in collaboration with the Macdonald Stewart Foundation. Foundation president Liliane Stewart remarked on the appropriateness of the setting, given that the Engineering building—along with Physics and Chemistry and, later, the building that today houses the McCord Museum—was among the philanthropist's first gifts to the University.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum further praised Macdonald as a man "of great stature" who helped to build McGill not only as a leading educational institution but, between the downtown and Macdonald campuses, as a place "with more green space than anywhere else on Montreal island."
Author William Fong, noting that his father earned a degree in Engineering from McGill, said he feels a personal debt to the University and had long been interested in exploring the legacy of Sir William Macdonald.
"He made McGill known across Canada and beyond," Fong said.
Published by McGill-Queen's University Press, Sir William C. Macdonald: A Biography is available at the McGill Bookstore.