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The more than 250 people who gathered at the Montreal Science Centre on Feb. 19 to celebrate the groundbreaking achievements of McGill researchers at the Applause 2008 gala had another reason to put their hands together. Kicking off the event in grand style, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum announced that McGill alum Dr. John Blachford, BEng '59, PhD '63, had presented a gift of $1.25 million to the university's Faculty of Science in order to establish the Fessenden Professorship in Science Innovation.
The Principal also announced that Blachford's son Erik had committed $250,000 over 10 years to fund Fessenden Prizes to recognize innovative thinking and research undertaken by McGill faculty, undergraduates and graduate students.
Addressing the audience, Munroe-Blum expressed "the sincere gratitude of the McGill community" for the Blachford family's generosity in helping "support McGill innovators of the present and future."
Although looking ahead to the future, Munroe-Blum paid homage to radio pioneer Reginald Aubrey Fessenden — Dr. Blachford's great uncle, and the person for whom the professorship is named. Among his many other accomplishments, Fessenden sent the world's first-ever transmission of human speech in 1900 and produced the world's first audio entertainment program in 1906.
Martin Grant, Dean of the Faculty of Science, praised Blachford for a gift that celebrates one of Canada's past innovators while paving the way for the world's future trailblazers. "John Blachford's extremely generous decision to make this gift to McGill and the Faculty not only honours his great uncle, it's an example of his visionary thinking and helps us ensure that the future Fessendens will come from McGill."