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When James McGill died in 1813, he left a bequest to the Royal Institute for the Advancement of Learning that his Montreal estate, then little more than a few buildings dotting a parcel of land stripped near-bare by grazing cattle, be used to create a university.
Today, thanks to a “greening” tradition started by Sir William Dawson, a paleobotanist and McGill principal (1855 to 1893), the campus is now home to nearly 1,000 trees representing more than 60 species.
Many people—including Roslyn Robertson, longtime McGill administrator Sam Kingdon, and botany professor David Penhallow—have stewarded Dawson’s vision into the 21st century, planting and nurturing flora that both promotes diversity and celebrates the University’s place in the St. Lawrence Valley ecosystem.