Painting the University red

Painting the University red McGill University

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McGill Reporter
February 13, 2003 - Volume 35 Number 10
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 35: 2002-2003 > February 13, 2003 > Painting the University red

Painting the university red

Scarlet Key Society and McGill

Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) prez Martin Doe has one. So does energetic volunteer and McGill grad Naomi Lear. And Moses Znaimer, producer of Citytv and MuchMusic? He too, holds the key.

Caption follows Andrew Tischler in a Scarlet Key Sweater from the '30s
Photo: Owen Egan

The Scarlet Key Society of McGill has been around since 1925, when it was founded by Duncan Stuart "The Major" Forbes (McGill's director of athletics from 1923-46, minus a stint to serve in WW II). Students who gained entrance to the society, aside from being well-rounded great gals and guys, were recognized for their outstanding leadership and community commitment.

These days, society initiates receive a small enamel pin, but in the past they also wore Scarlet Key sweaters.

Andrew Tischler, president of the Scarlet Key Society, graduated in 2000 (political science major, philosophy minor) and is now studying law at McGill. He was awarded with the key in his last undergraduate year, when he was also SSMU prez.

He says that the Scarlet Key Society used to be quite visible on campus. "The Terry Fox run and November's poppy drives used to be organized by the Scarlet Key, but now the society's gone underground." He'd like Key members to be more involved in the university events the society has traditionally supported, such as graduation, and represent McGill to visitors. He also hopes the Key will be "a strong support for university life and traditions, while being able to offer opinions and direction in the decisions being taken within the university community."

Tischler feels the society is a great catalyst to get people involved in community life on campus. "I got more involved the more I saw other people get involved." He chose to become president of the society to "help re-establish the traditions of the Key and try to create strong ties with the society to work towards supporting future leaders from McGill." He hopes to help Key members "support the university while at the school and beyond."

If you know someone who's deserving of Scarlet Key honours, you can nominate them. "The people who are quiet and consistent are important," Tischler says, and are often too modest to toot their own horn or even see that what they do is special.

There are 1500 recipients to date, Tischler says. Last year there were well over a 100 upstanding undergraduate citizens who applied for membership for the key. The awarding committee is made up of about seven members. As well, professors and staff are sometimes given honorary keys in recognition of their inspired efforts to help the community.

They're not sinister Masons, Tischler assures me, just people who take pride in McGill and their community. "Many can still be found working on campus as members of various alumni and university boards, and have traditionally been strong financial supporters of the university. Each of the Keys have done so based on their personal initiative and commitment to McGill."

Tischler is planning a reunion of Scarlet Keys, which he hopes will take place in March before this year's awards ceremony. "We would like to have as many Keys as possible attend," he says, adding that there hasn't been a reunion in years.

Know someone who fits the Scarlet profile? Think you've got what it takes to be a member? Applications can be downloaded from and are due March 7. The Scarlet Key hopes to recognize as many deserving candidates as possible.

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