Why Giving Matters

Strangers Connect as Alumni

dr. edward abrahams and bess zafran

Photo: Owen Egan

In May 2018, 65 years after he graduated, Dr. Edward Abrahams returned to campus for his granddaughter Rachel’s convocation. He also met Bess Zafran, another 2018 grad, and one of McGill’s newest donors. His impression? “The kid is terrific!”

Ask Dr. Abrahams how he got to McGill, and he’ll be the first to tell you it was a circuitous route. He had already been through two New England schools for his undergraduate degree, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and the Navy from 1943-46, before beginning dental school at McGill as a veteran on the G.I. Bill in 1948.

It wasn’t easy as a father of two by day and a cab driver by night. But Dr. Abrahams persevered, graduating with his DDS in 1953. “Nobody else in my family ever went to university,” he explains. “Education has been the most important thing in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

For Bess Zafran, the road to McGill was literal: driving to McGill for an accepted student visit, with her brand-new passport in hand, was the first time she’d ever left the U.S. She fell in love with McGill, yet knew her family could never afford the cost.

But as she and her mother drove back into New York, she got the message that she’d been awarded the first Heather Munroe-Blum Leadership Award. Thanks to the scholarship, named after McGill’s Principal Emerita, Zafran was getting a full ride to her dream school. “It felt too good to be true,” she says. “We had to pull the car over!”

Zafran graduated with the Arts class of 2018, and like Dr. Abrahams, who made his first gift to his alma mater shortly after graduation, she was eager to give back. When she got her first call from the Phonathon office, where she had worked for three years as a student, the proud new alumna made her first gift: a symbolic $20.18.

Every year, thousands of alumni like Zafran and Dr. Abrahams give back to McGill, and the collective impact is tremendous. “So many grads like Dr. Abrahams give year after year,” says Bess, “and I think people underestimate the power of the contributions that they make.”

“But there are so many people like me who wouldn’t be able to be at McGill if it wasn’t for that generosity.”


Read our full Report on Giving 2018.