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Home > McGill News > 2002 > Fall 2002 > Newsbites


McGill Gets Top Marks


McGill has been garnering gushing reviews lately. In the week before classes began, two reports in the U.S. featured McGill in their picks for best schools, and a London Times article earlier in the summer reported on what attracts UK students to "Canada's top university."

The latest rave came in a joint publication by Newsweek magazine and Kaplan Educational Centers, which ranked McGill among 12 "hot colleges in America" and raised the now-standard comparison with Harvard. The Princeton Review's guide,

The Best 345 Colleges, is a handbook based on a 70-question survey of 100,000 students at the universities listed. McGill is described as "as tough as it comes in Canadian higher education... The admission process is thorough and demanding." Faculty members also get high marks, for being "hugely entertaining," as well as "friendly and approachable" and "very knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about their material." Bureaucracy comes in for a bashing, however, with a root canal called "more fun than registration." And, once again, McGill was the "Harvard of Canada."

UK students attending McGill said they were attracted by the flexibility of McGill's academic programs, its excellent reputation, its low cost relative to U.S. universities and the multicultural character of the city. In fact, Montreal was a factor in all the surveys and the Princeton Review ranked it 15th on its list of Great College Towns.

Vice-Principal, Administration and Finance, Morty Yalovsky says that parents also see Montreal as a city where their children will be safe living in the downtown area. "Montreal doesn't create any fear factor," he told the Montreal Gazette. He acknowledged that students face a lot of red tape, but said that McGill was working to make improvements. "We know we have to give students much better service and we've invested $600,000 this year to provide better student advisories." He added that some of the difficulties arise from bureaucratic processes imposed on universities by the province.

Principal Bernard Shapiro agrees with the assessment of Montreal. "It's just a great place to be. It's a great place to learn." As for that Harvard thing, he said that we have things they don't and vice versa. "They have the benefit of an enormous endowment and all that that can bring, and we have a much greater focus on undergraduate education."

Missing a Maestro


One of Montreal's great institutions is in a precarious state and Principal Bernard Shapiro is playing a leading role in steering it back towards solid ground. Earlier this year, Charles Dutoit, DMus'96, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra's widely respected conductor, severed his ties with the MSO after leading the ensemble to two Grammy Awards, two Juno Awards and over 40 national and international prizes during his 25 years as MSO chief.

Dutoit's sudden resignation was prompted by an open letter from the head of the Quebec Musicians' Guild that condemned Dutoit for "offensive behaviour and complete lack of respect for the musicians." His decision startled MSO supporters and left orchestra members with mixed feelings. While some musicians regarded Dutoit as abusive, others admired his demanding leadership style.

Enter Shapiro, a big MSO fan and a fellow who knows a thing or two about leading public institutions. The principal heads a selection committee that will identify candidates to replace Dutoit. A hiring committee made up of members of the MSO's board of directors will use the shortlist to make the final decision.

The controversy surrounding Dutoit's exit "makes the process a little more awkward," warrants Shapiro. But there is no shortage of interest in the job. "Many, many people have expressed an interest in the position. The question is, are we interested in them?"

Shapiro says the search will be influenced by Dutoit's stormy style and its repercussions.


"We're thinking carefully about the capacity of any future conductor to sustain a liveable relationship with orchestra members." Don't expect the next conductor to be a Mr. Rogers clone, though. The conductor's job is to "elicit the best playing the orchestra is capable of. That only happens if the orchestra has great respect for the conductor. But tension is built into that relationship. Sweetness and light never produce great work."

Shapiro has his own thoughts about what sort of candidate would be best.

"My preference is for someone who has some experience, but for whom leading this orchestra would be the chance of a lifetime. Not someone whose reputation has already been made elsewhere. Someone whose reputation would be made in Montreal."

Authors of McGill's Success


Ever wanted to see your name on a book in a library? That's exactly what will happen for nearly 9,000 McGill donors. Beginning in September, new library volumes will carry bookplates bearing the names of graduates and other donors to McGill who have made a gift to the University for five or more consecutive years.

"We've never had a program to recognize our most loyal donors -- those who give every year -- and so we decided to begin this year," explains Joan Butterworth, BA'85, DipEd'86, CertSysLang'88, Special Events Coordinator in the McGill Alumni Association (MAA). The original suggestion came from Dr. Gordon Crelinsten, BSc'68, MDCM'70, an active volunteer with the MAA. Joanna Andrews and Steven Spodek of the McGill Libraries helped make his idea a reality. Fifteen different library collections will receive volumes recognizing the loyal donors.

Before organizers opened their glue-pots, all the alumni donors were asked to permit their names to appear on the bookplates and delighted responses arrived lightning-fast.

"The program didn't cost a great deal," Butterworth observes. "We hired a student to handle the correspondence. The libraries are happy to add the bookplates when they index new volumes and label them for the collections. And one important, lasting result of this program will be to show students how many individual graduates have contributed to the education they receive today."

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