John McCall MacBain: from a BA in Economics to a historic $200 million gift

A profile on businessman and McGill Arts Alumnus John McCall MacBain and details on the recently announced McCall MacBain Scholarships at McGill.

Inspired in part by his own experience as a scholarship student in the Faculty of Arts, John, together with his wife Marcy, announced a remarkable gift of $200 million to support comprehensive graduate scholarships for Canadian and international scholars at McGill.

Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, John earned an Honours BA in Economics from McGill in 1984. During his time as a McGillian, he served as president of the Students’ Society of McGill University and was named valedictorian of his graduating class. He went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and received an MBA from Harvard Business School and an MA in Law from Oxford University. John later returned to Montreal where he launched his company, Trader Classified Media, which grew to be a world-leading classified advertising company. In 2016, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada for “his achievements as a business leader and for his contributions to academic institutions as a philanthropist” (Globe and Mail).

Both he and his wife Marcy, also an Ontario native, Oxford Fellow, and Director of the McCall MacBain Foundation, believe that supporting a dream takes much more than just financial backing.

“Doing anything without a supportive community behind you is difficult. We both recognize the importance of having a community which believes in you and which can also help”, Marcy told the McGill Reporter.

The McCall MacBain Scholarships will not only cover tuition and fees for graduate study, but provide an immersive learning experience with a living stipend, an assigned personal mentor, and academic advisor, retreats, workshops, and internships. The Scholarship has been dubbed Canada’s Rhodes or Fulbright equivalent. As the Right Honourable David Johnston explains in The Hill Times, the gift is a remarkable contribution to education in Canada, giving the country its place in the world as a nation of knowledge and innovation. It is also an initiative that promotes equality of educational opportunity. 

“As graduates of Canada's publicly-funded university system, Marcy and I know firsthand how universities like McGill can reduce social barriers and foster talent at the highest of levels”, says John, “I received my undergraduate degree as a scholarship student from McGill and it truly changed my trajectory. We are confident that with its combination of academic excellence and global reach, McGill is the institution where even more exceptional students can realize the aspirations they have for themselves and the welfare of others.”

Applications for Canadian students will open in 2020, and expect to open up internationally by 2024. By 2026, the program will bring up to 75 scholars on campus. All can apply for existing master’s and professional degrees at McGill, including Law and Medicine, as well as McGill's newly-created interdisciplinary Master of Arts and Science, currently under development and expected to be complete by 2021, the same year McGill will welcome the inaugural McCall MacBain Scholars.

Since establishing the McCall MacBain Foundation in 2007, John and Marcy have supported projects for sustainable development, environmental protection, healthcare, and education all over the world. As longtime supporters of McGill, they are also influential patrons of higher education studies and institutions around the world. They provide generous support to the Mandela Rhodes Scholarships in South Africa, the Kupe Leadership Scholarships at the University of Auckland, the Loran Scholars Foundation in Canada, and in 2013, committed £75 million to the Rhodes Trust in Oxford to help fund the Rhodes Scholarships and aid its expansion around the world.

Once underway in 2021, the McCall MacBain Scholarship will be the most generous and comprehensive graduate scholarship in the country.

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