P.O.V.: The importance of giving back

P.O.V.: The importance of giving back McGill University

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McGill Reporter
October 25, 2007 - Volume 40 Number 05
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 40: 2007-2008 > October 25, 2007 > P.O.V.: The importance of giving back


The importance of giving back

As a youngster, I was fortunate to have been bitten by the bug of science and technology. I was motivated by a feeling best described by the great planetary scientist Carl Sagan: "Science teaches us the deepest mysteries of our origins, nature and fate."

When I was about 13, someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

"A scientist," I replied.

"But what kind?" they asked.

"You mean I have to choose?" I replied.

Eventually I chose electronics as my profession, but I have retained an insatiable curiosity for the ongoing new wonders in science.

Birds / science illustration

I have a number of fond memories of my years as an electrical engineering student at McGill. In addition to pursuing my studies in electronics, I was able to nurture some of my other interests, such as space exploration and amateur radio. Being an early space enthusiast I soon developed the habit of going to the Engineering library every week to catch up on the latest news in the magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology. The '60s was an exciting time in space exploration. It was the era of the first robotic missions to the moon, Venus and Mars. It was also the time of the American Apollo program that culminated in the first manned moon landing in 1969. I kept myself up to date with my weekly visits to the Engineering library. Astronomy and space exploration have remained lifelong interests.

While I was a student, I was privileged to receive a scholarship that helped pay for my tuition. This is something that I never forgot and that I hoped I could repay in some way. Ever since I co-founded my company, Matrox, I have had a deep respect for the many philanthropists of the high-tech industry, starting with Bill Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett Packard and on to Bill Gates of Microsoft. Among other things, their philanthropy has helped make California's fabled Silicon Valley what it is today through their support of universities such as Stanford. I believe it is important for successful individuals to give something back to the community. Like many of North America's great universities, McGill has a history of grateful alumni who have helped support the University. This is one of the proud traditions of McGill that I am pleased to be a part of.

My particular interest at McGill has been to support science and technology education. There are many reasons for this. Science and technology continue their rapid advances, with breathtaking new discoveries and exciting new technologies as almost a daily occurrence. Since the dawn of civilization, all of the important changes in material human wealth, health and power have been due to advances in science and technology. Science and technology are essential to our continued health and economic prosperity on this planet. The growth of human population and consumption that has been enabled by these very same advances has produced dangerous demands on the earth's climate and ecosystems. Science and technology provide our main hope for positive solutions to these problems. Finally, science provides awesome insights into the deepest mysteries of our origins from the Big Bang to the origin and evolution of life. These basic science questions address our insatiable curiosity to understand our world.

These are the primary reasons for my support for science and technology education at McGill. For me, it has been both a privilege and an honour to be able to help McGill provide expanded opportunities for more young people to achieve the kind of success in the fields of science and technology that I have enjoyed. My gifts to McGill have been a source of great personal satisfaction.

Lorne Trottier is the co-founder of the Montreal-based Matrox Group of video graphics companies. Since graduating from McGill with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1970, Trottier has bestowed $22 million to his alma mater. On clear nights he still can be seen gazing toward the stars.

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