He has seen a century. Two world wars, the introduction of computers to the workplace, the rapid growth of a young Canada and the blossoming of McGill. Eric A. Leslie, BSc(Eng)'16, LLD'61, celebrated his 100th birthday in Ottawa last July 11.
A native Montrealer, Leslie came to McGill on the Canadian Pacific Railway Scholarship and was Editor-in- Chief of the McGill Daily, sleeping overnight at his desk during tight deadlines. He served as a lieutenant in France during the First World War; and still retains a small silver whiskey flask bearing his initials. He married a fellow McGill student and they had four children.
It was during his time as Vice-President and Comptroller of CPR that McGill harnessed his talents. In 1947, as President of the McGill Graduates' Society, he raised $750,000 for the War Memorial Campaign (the goal was $400,000), running the campaign out of the CPR offices at Windsor Station. Recognizing the need for good communication, he transferred the Graduates' Society mailing lists to the IBM system. He divided the campaign into 48 districts, travelling in his personal railway car to 28 cities across North America. He would invite prospective volunteers to his car for a drink after work. žIt was impossible to refuse,Ó recalled one of his recruits.
As a result, McGill built a swimming pool and a War Memorial Hall. Leslie organized a Victory Reunion to celebrate the end of the Second World War and McGill's 125th birthday. The banquet was so well attended it occupied two ballrooms of the Windsor Hotel, with a head table of 40 and Lord Alexander as the guest of honour.
Today, Eric Leslie reads three newspapers a day, and writes often to federal politicians to question them on matters of national concern. McGill is proud to holler from its rooftops: Happy 100th Birthday, Mr. Eric Leslie!