About the Society

Who was James McGill?

In 1813, James McGill, a wealthy Scottish merchant living in Montreal, bequeathed his 46-acre estate and £10,000 to found a university, for the education of Quebec's English-speaking population.

Chartered in 1821, McGill began instruction in 1829 at the Faculty of Medicine. The Faculty of Arts was established in 1843. Over the decades the University added steadily to its programs and facilities.

The first women students were admitted in 1884. In 1907, the University added Macdonald Campus when Sir William Macdonald endowed a college at Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, 40 kilometres (about 25 miles) west of Montreal - today the site of McGill's Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Mandate of the Society

The James McGill Society was formed in 1975. Its primary concern is to foster interest and appreciation of McGill University's history and personalities, which are interpreted broadly to include current activities and impending developments - that is both past history and history in the making.

The Society covers the entire spectrum of McGill life: academic and research activities, student life, and administrative activities. Arts, Science, Medicine, and all the other faculties have been discussed in rotation over the years. Macdonald College is an area of continuing interest.


You can read the constitution of the Society here:

PDF icon jms-constitution-20141117.pdf

Meetings of the Society

The Society meets four or five times a year. We convene normally on Mondays, beginning with a reception at 5:00 p.m., where members raise a glass of wine, have a nibble, catch up with University news, and sometimes even gossip.

We then hear a talk followed by member's comments and discussion until 7 p.m. or so. We meet in a variety of campus locations, suitable to the topic and speaker. Many talks have subsequently been published.

Next meeting

Presidents *

1975-1985 Edward Bensley,
Faculty of Medicine
  Michael Maxwell,
Department of History
  Robert V. V. Nicholls,
Department of Chemistry
  Max Dunbar,
Department of Meteorology
1985-1987 Stanley Frost,
Director, History of McGill Project
1987-1989 Margaret Gillett,
Faculty of Education
1989-1991 Carman Miller,
Department of History
1991-1993 Robert H. Michel,
McGill University Archives
1993-1995 M. A. Whitehead,
Department of Chemistry
1995-1997 Peter F. McNally,
Graduate School of Library and Information Studies
1997-1999 William Feindel,
Montreal Neurological Institute
1999-2001 Tom Thompson,
Development Office
2001-2003 David Covo,
School of Architecture
2003-2005 Johanne Pelletier,
McGill University Secretariat
2005-2007 John Hobbins,
Nahum Gelber Law Library
2007-2009 Desmond Morton,
Department of History
2009-2010 Gordon Burr,
McGill University Archives
2011-2013 Susan Button,
Development and Alumni Relations
2013- Theresa Rowat
Director and University Archivist
McGill University Archives


* Uncertainty exists concerning the specific dates when the first four Presidents held office.