Terry and Bonnie Jackson: Making their mark with a 200 Legacy Gift

Since attending McGill as students in the Class of ‘69, the couple have been setting an example by volunteering and giving back

Terry Jackson, BCom’69, was biking on a crisp November morning when he had a fleeting Marcel Proust moment remembering a prescient photo from the past. “When I was a baby my mother, Ruby, knit me a sweater that said McGill 1969 on it. She was a McGill grad also, Class of ’39, and made a pretty good guess as to my timing,” he says. “Sadly, I don’t have a copy of that picture today.”

Fortunately, Terry’s own photographs capturing the beauty of wildlife in motion are preserved and displayed for current and future generations of Desautels BCom and MBA students on the walls of the Terry and Bonnie Jackson Study Room in the Donald E. Armstrong Building, which opened in 2018. “The idea was to create a more welcoming and inspiring learning environment. It’s nice to know that something I’ve created from my experiences travelling to some unique corners of the world is making the idea and experience of studying more enjoyable for business students,” says Terry, who donated the photographs and with his spouse Bonnie Jackson, BA’69, BEd’70, made a generous contribution towards the Building, a major renovation project funded entirely through philanthropic support.

Sharing good fortune

For Terry and Bonnie Jackson, the “timing” of their formative years together as undergraduate students at McGill in the Class of ’69 was truly fortunate. The couple married in 1970 and Terry’s business education prepared him for a highly successful career in the investment industry. He joined the Montreal-based brokerage firm Nesbitt Thomson after graduating, ran its wealth management business for 15 years, and became Executive Vice-President, Asset Management Services, at BMO (Bank of Montreal) following its acquisition of the brokerage firm.

“I’ve had some good fortune in the business world, and we are able to share that good fortune with causes that we think are important. McGill is a great university and I’m blown away by the quality of the students I’ve met at Desautels.

The Faculty has attracted top professors and is very strong in career development, assuring the students get exposure to many types of industries and companies,” says Terry, who served on the Faculty’s International Advisory Board for 13 years.

Bonnie’s unique experience as one of a select group of students in the Faculty of Education’s MEET (McGill Elementary Education Teaching-Teams) program left a lasting impression. “I was invited to be part of an internship program where we were in three different schools three days each week, learning how to teach in teams. It was a very innovative approach and such a wonderful way to teach,” she recalls.

Her McGill education was a transformative experience. “I loved McGill. That is where I learned to believe in myself. Education is so important in furthering and getting to know who you are. It gave me the confidence to do what I had to do when facing future challenges in life. I look back now and realize the privilege that going to McGill afforded us,” she says.

Making a legacy gift

That privilege is one the Jacksons have honoured by giving back in multiple ways ever since their student days. For the past 48 years, they have donated to McGill, and Terry has been generous in volunteering his time, artistic talents and experience as a wealth management industry leader to the International Advisory Board from 2002 to 2015, and in supporting the Faculty’s expansion into the Donald E. Armstrong Building.

The couple have also made plans to leave a bequest to McGill. “McGill is the education beneficiary in our will because it’s the place where Bonnie and I started. It’s a world-class university with great people, which we want to continue supporting with a legacy gift,” says Terry.

McGill University was founded with a bequest from trader, pioneer, and philanthropist James McGill in 1821. McGill will mark 200 years of research, discovery, and learning, starting next month. To celebrate, the University has launched the 200 for 200 Legacy Challenge, which aims to secure 200 legacy gifts in celebration of McGill’s 200th anniversary.

“Quite often people need a stimulus such as the 200th anniversary to do something special. Making a bequest through your will is an easy thing to do. Those who have been fortunate to get a good education should consider passing on that ability to others by making a legacy gift that will live on once they are gone,” says Terry, who is encouraging other McGill alumni and friends to follow their example.

The joys of giving

The Jacksons’ motivation for giving back to McGill is part of their broader philosophy of volunteerism and philanthropic support in a wide range of fields. Bonnie and Terry have been deeply involved in supporting the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) as volunteers and philanthropists ever since their daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five. The couple had three young children at the time – five, four and three years of age.

“Our whole perspective and lives changed when our daughter was diagnosed with diabetes in 1978. We asked, what can we do to help raise awareness and money for research to get a cure? We hadn’t been involved with a lot of charities before and started to immerse ourselves in the philanthropic world,” Bonnie recalls.

Over the past four decades the Jacksons, who live in Oakville, Ont., have been immersed in volunteering and supporting a variety of charitable organizations including the Kerr Street Mission, the YMCA of Oakville, the Oakville Hospital Foundation, the Oakville Community Foundation, and Wellspring Cancer Support Network. “I feel it’s almost selfish what we do because there is such a joy in giving that we both feel. This has made me who I am. I’m a happy person and have a lot of purpose in my life,” says Bonnie, who received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award in 2015 in recognition of 37 years of active volunteering.

Terry, who was awarded the Governor General’s Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in 2018, shares Bonnie’s sentiments about the intrinsic rewards of giving back. “When you’re able to help other people, it changes your life. Charitable giving allows you to become more fulfilled,” he says.

When Terry and Bonnie Jackson reviewed their estate plan, they chose to make bequests to several organizations that reflect their priorities and would have a lasting impact. “If you put different charities and causes in your will, it shows where your values are, how you’ve lived your life and what matters to you. It’s so important to support education, which can get people out of poverty and homelessness. Terry and I were lucky to have been both educated at McGill. We are happy to support the 200 Legacy Challenge and leave a gift to McGill in our will. We encourage others to do the same and in so doing, to feel the joy of giving,” she says.

Learn more about McGill’s 200 for 200 Legacy Challenge

Article written by: Mark Witten
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