The Greatest McGillian of all time: 
190 years in the making


The world is invited to cast its vote for a world-changing pioneer

As McGill gears up to launch events celebrating its 190th anniversary, it is asking the world to cast a vote (or several) for the “Greatest McGillian” who ever lived. Will it be a poet, a scientist, a politician, a philosopher, an actor – or someone else?

Earlier this year, an invitation was issued to the McGill community to submit online nominations for a graduate, professor, staff member, student or benefactor who has made a significant impact on the University and the world at large.

“The beauty of an online project like this is that people can respond immediately,” explained McGill Alumni Association Senior Executive Director Honora Shaughnessy. “People could submit whoever popped into their head, which led to a lot of interesting entries.”

An impressive 700 online nominations representing a broad range of fields and achievements were submitted, with many accompanied by deeply personal and moving tributes about how their nominee helped changed their life in some way.

A committee was given the daunting task of whittling the list to just 20 people, including Nobel Prize laureates, human-rights activists, physicists, scientists, educators, philanthropists and cultural and sports icons.

And now McGill is asking people around the world to have their say on which McGillian has made the greatest impact. More than 18,000 votes have been cast online since voting was opened earlier this month – and the race is tight. Voting will continue throughout the summer, and the winners will be announced in early September. A new interactive online timeline of McGill’s history, which will incorporate the Greatest McGillians nominations, will also be launched in the fall.

“I think it’s a fun exercise for members of the McGill community and the public at large to take five minutes out of their day to reflect on what makes someone’s contribution to history, society or the university significant,” Shaughnessy said. “And then they can vote for that person as the Greatest McGillian!”

To vote for the Greatest McGillian, visit

And the nominees are:

Maude Abbott, Pioneering Pathologist

Bernard Belleau, Co-Developer of Anti-AIDS Drug 3TC

Thomas Chang, Inventor of Artificial Blood Cell

Thomas H. Clark, Celebrated Geologist

Leonard Cohen, Renowned Poet and Singer-Songwriter

William Dawson, Transformative Principal

Charles R. Drew, Blood Bank Innovator

Jennifer Heil, Decorated Olympian and World Champion

John Humphrey, Author of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s First Francophone Prime Minister

Stephen Leacock, Legendary Humorist

William C. Macdonald, Major Benefactor and Founder of Macdonald Campus

James McGill, University Founder

Brenda Milner, Trailblazing Neuroscientist

James Naismith, Inventor of Basketball

William Osler, Creator of Modern Medical Training

Wilder Penfield, Founder of Montreal Neurological Institute

Ernest Rutherford, Father of Nuclear Physics

William Shatner, Iconic Actor

Charles Taylor, Prominent Philosopher

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Que., in 1821, McGill is Canada’s leading post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 11 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 36,000 students, including 8,300 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, with more than 7,200 international students making up 20 per cent of the student body. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including more than 6,200 francophones.





Contact Information

Tamarah Feder
McGill Media Relations
tamarah.feder [at]
Office Phone: 
514 398-6754