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With just a little less fanfare than that usually reserved for events under the big top, the McGill community came together in droves to herald the Oct. 18 launch of Campaign McGill, which helped kick off the university's 86th Homecoming Weekend and first-ever Parents Weekend.
Already buoyed by the prospect of a weekend filled with special events both traditional and new, faculty, students, staff, parents, alumni and a host of friends were finally made privy to the unprecedented $750-million target of a fundraising campaign aptly subtitled "History in the Making."
"This is the most ambitious launch goal in the history of Canadian university fundraising," Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum announced in the well-appointed tent set up for the occasion on the downtown campus lower field. "It reflects our belief in the importance of our teaching and research objectives, our faith in the future and the strength of our ties to our alumni and friends in Montreal, Quebec, across Canada and around the world."
The campaign is intended to secure McGill's ability to nurture and sustain its undergraduate students; to attract and support the world's most talented graduate students; to attract and retain the world's most brilliant and effective professors, scholars and scientists; and to fund groundbreaking research, scholarship and service to the community.
And already, the university is well on its way, having raised $325 million during the campaign's quiet phase, an achievement Munroe-Blum described as "itself a validation of the power of our mission, the passion of our alumni and friends around the world and their belief in our students and faculty."
Thierry Vandal, president and CEO of Hydro-Québec, was on hand to announce the utility's $10-million gift to the campaign, of which $4.5 million will be used to support undergraduate and graduate scholarships in law, science and engineering; another $4.5 million to create industrial chairs in environmental and energy research in science and engineering; and $1 million to fund research in nanotechnology and environmental law.
The principal also announced two gifts, each of $5 million, from campaign co-chair Senator Michael Meighen, along with his wife Kelly, and from McGill alumnus John McCall MacBain and his wife Marcy.
The first will establish the Kelly and Michael Meighen Endowment for Student Advising and Support, while the second will support graduate fellowships in the Faculty of Arts.
The setting for the launch was chosen because the current campaign bears no small resemblance to the original dream behind James McGill's decision to bequeath land to establish McGill University, Munroe-Blum said.
"He cast the product of his lifetime of hard work on the side of free inquiry, on the side of education independent of religious influence, at a time when there was no evidence that a piece of land, on the side of a wintry mountain, on a remote island, on a remote continent, could ever become a great university. But it did become a great university," she said.
"This dream is no more improbable than James McGill's dream, and his came true. And together, so will ours."
"This dream is no more improbable than James McGill's dream, and his came true. And together, so will ours."Principal Heather Munroe-Blum