Editor's notebook

Editor's notebook McGill University

| Skip to search Skip to navigation Skip to page content

User Tools (skip):

Sign in | Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Sister Sites: McGill website | myMcGill

McGill News
ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
McGill News cover

| Help
Page Options (skip): Larger
Home > McGill News > 2000 > Summer 2000 > Editor's notebook

In the week before we went to press, a stunning announcement was made that once again put McGill in the history books. Dr. Richard Tomlinson, PhD'48, is giving McGill a gift of $64 million -- the largest single donation ever made by a graduate to a Canadian university.

Dr. Tomlinson has shown generosity to his alma mater before. In fact, the news was delivered in Tomlinson Hall, an atrium-like facility he funded in the Department of Athletics. He also established a chair in the Department of Chemistry -- Tomlinson was a graduate student of the legendary chemist Otto Maass -- in 1987. Bishop's University, where he did his undergraduate work (and was voted "Most Likely to Succeed"), has benefited from his largesse, as has McMaster, where he taught for almost four decades.

In part, the money will support the creation of new academic chairs and will dramatically increase the number of fellowships and scholarships available to help McGill attract the brightest students. "Really good students are so rare that there is competition for them," Tomlinson told his audience. "By and large, students are poor; you have to pay them." Dean of Science Alan Shaver underlined that point in his remarks when he said that without the financial support he received as a graduate student, "I wouldn't be standing here today."

Even an announcement as exciting as this one may not please a grad who wrote to us in response to a piece in the last issue about pigeons nesting in the roof of the Strathcona Music Building. She wanted to know why the administration was ignoring crumbling infrastructure while announcing new projects like the William and Mary Brown Student Services Building. This apparent contradiction may puzzle other readers and the answer is more complex than just diverting a little money to repairs.

As provincial governments have cut their funding, universities have had to defer maintenance projects in order not to sink the academic ship. The problem is national in scope, as a recent study by the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO) and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) has revealed. Across the country, the tab for accumulated deferred maintenance stands at $3.6 billion, which works out to $5,500 for each full-time student.

For McGill, which pegs its maintenance needs at over $150 million, the problem is particularly acute since a number of its properties are at least a century old. McGill's biggest building boom occurred in the 1960s, an era when buildings were put up quickly because of swelling enrolments, and when, according to an AUCC publication, "construction materials and methods may have been less than ideal." The article goes on to say that "it's often easier for universities to find budgets for new construction -- private fundraising has covered the costs for state-of-the-art new buildings on many campuses, but few private corporations are likely to fund low-profile ongoing maintenance budgets." And it's simply a fact that most donations come with designations for their use; universities must be scrupulous about observing donors' wishes.

Happily, Dean Richard Lawton reports good news for the Faculty of Music. In April, the provincial government made a one-time grant to Quebec universities for capital improvements, and of McGill's share, which amounts to $14 million, $1 million is being spent on repairs to the Strathcona Music Building. The pigeons have been evicted. Pollack Concert Hall is being refurbished thanks to private donors. Best of all, the Minister of Education just announced that Quebec will provide significant support for the long-awaited extension to the Strathcona Building.

By the time this issue reaches you, spring convocations will be over and roughly 5,000 new alumni added to the ranks. Honorary degree recipients this year include noted author Mordecai Richler, film and Genie-award-winning TV producer Robert Lantos, BA'70, MA'72, and human rights advocate and legal scholar Vojin Dimitrijevic. Professor Dimitrijevic, Director of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and an opponent of Slobodan Milosevic, was dismissed from his job at the University of Belgrade School of Law because of his stand against the University Act in Serbia, which stripped universities of their autonomy.

To read more about convocation honorees and Richard Tomlinson, look up the May 25 McGill Reporter online at www.mcgill.ca/Reporter. To check out upcoming alumni events, click on the "alumni events" link on our web site at www.mcgill.ca/alumni.

Happy reading and have a wonderful summer.

view sidebar content | back to top of page