Newsbites 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


Money in the Bank

Most students would agree that a McGill education is a smart investment in their future. Some of North America's savviest financial experts believe that McGill is a smart investment, period.

Following in the footsteps of several U.S. and Canadian universities, McGill recently acquired $200 million by issuing unsecured debentures. The University has until 2042 to repay the principal and investors are guaranteed an annual return of 6.185%.

Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Morty Yalovsky admits he had a few sleepless nights leading up to the day the debentures were made available. If demand fell short, McGill would be placed in the embarrassing position of having to offer a higher yield rate.

Turns out the debentures were too popular -- they were oversubscribed by some $50 million.

Yalovsky had both of North America's leading bond raters appraise the McGill offering before it went to market. The University received two thumbs up. Standard & Poor's Rating Service noted McGill's "prudent management of the University's finances, favourable student demand and McGill's strong academic and research profile," concluding that McGill enjoyed "flagship status within the provincial higher education portfolio." For its part, Moody's Investor Service was impressed by "the very strong student demand, driven by the University's internationally recognized academic reputation."

Both agencies rate McGill more highly than they do the Quebec government. McGill earns an Aa2 rating from Moody's and an AA minus from Standard's. Yalovsky takes pride in the top marks. The University adopts "a cautious, prudent approach" to managing its money, says Yalovsky, noting that McGill has had better success in paring down its deficit than many of its counterparts in Canada.

The $200 million will be used to create additional student residence quarters -- either by constructing a new building or purchasing an existing one. McGill's current residence spaces don't come close to meeting student demand, falling short by about 2,000 spaces.

The money will also be used to upgrade the University's food service facilities. The funding from the debentures will only be used for activities that generate revenue -- all the better for helping the University pay the money back.

Why go the debentures route? Says Yalovsky, "McGill was looking for long-term financing at a constant rate, a method that wouldn't be subject to fluctuations. Think of homeowners whose mortgage is up for renewal just as interest rates start to soar. We didn't want that kind of situation."

Ship of Schools

Associate Vice-Principal (Research) Ian Butler (right) with Captain Robert Noël.
PHOTO: Owen Egan

A gleaming sky overhead, the taste of salt water on your lips, sea spray at your feet.

This is a research lab? Yep.

Thanks to the recent acquisition of the Coriolis II, a 50-metre research boat, McGill oceanographers in the Departments of Biology, Earth and Planetary Sciences and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences will be able to travel to where the action is to study aquatic life forms and marine sediments up close.

The boat, purchased, retooled and upgraded with $12 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Quebec government, will be shared by four universities -- McGill, the Université du Québec à Rimouski, the Université du Québec à Montréal and Laval.

Professor Alfonso Mucci, chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, says the new vessel is deeply appreciated -- the old fishing trawler McGill once used for oceanographic studies was half the size of the Coriolis II and not nearly as sturdy.

"We could only take the old boat away from port for less than a day," says Mucci. "We can take the new ship out for 20 days." He says the new boat is a "Mercedes" compared to the old trawler.

The Coriolis II, a former search and rescue vessel for the Coast Guard, comes equipped with sleeping quarters for 22 passengers, a kitchen, laundry facilities, two labs and a computer room. The boat also features moon pools -- holes built into the bottom deck floors to allow researchers to lower equipment from a lab directly into the sea below.

Mucci will be using the Coriolis II to uncover more data about a troubling trend he has been tracking in the St. Lawrence Estuary. Oxygen levels in the water have been plummeting. "It's only about 20% of what it should be. That's a big deal," he explains. "This has an impact on the diversity of organisms. It affects the life cycle of cod -- they can't reproduce in these conditions."

Mucci also suspects the new boat will help him stock his research team.

"This is an incredibly good recruiting tool for graduate students. It really sells them on oceanography once we're out to sea. They realize it beats spending all your time cooped up in a hot lab during the summer."

Dentists Don the White Coats

Hot on the heels of the inaugural white coat ceremony for the Faculty of Medicine, McGill Faculty of Dentistry students now have a ceremony they can call their own. This past September, third-year dentistry students were draped in the classic clinical white by Dean of Dentistry James Lund (above with Patricia Kelly). The ceremony is becoming a traditional one for many university medicine and dentistry programs. It's intended to promote ethical and professional attitudes among health care students as they progress from preclinical to clinical studies and accept the responsibilities of caring for patients.

Faculty, staff, students and proud parents were on hand for the ceremony, which included music, a keynote address by the editor of the Canadian Dental Association Journal, John O'Keefe, and the reciting of a pledge of responsibility by the students.

The Dean believes the ceremony helps the students focus on the responsibilities of the profession. "When I was a student, we really looked forward to the beginning of the clinical part of our training," says Lund, "and the relationships that we developed with our patients were personal and warm. However, it was hard to change from an undergraduate whose main preoccupation was football and the passing of exams with a minimum of effort into someone who had to put the care of their patients before all else. The White Coat ceremony is, in a small way, a rite of passage that helps the participants to see that they are moving into a new phase of their lives."

On the Job Early

PHOTO: Henry Koro

While she says she's not a morning person, Heather Munroe-Blum nonetheless got off to an early start this fall in her role as McGill's new principal. Now ensconced in her office at the James Administration Building -- she officially started the job January 3 -- Munroe-Blum immersed herself in things McGill for months before her arrival, including a Toronto reception held at the new, architecturally spectacular home of Gerald Sheff, BArch'64, (shown here with the new principal) and his wife, Shanitha Kachan.

Ninety people were on hand to hear Munroe-Blum speak of the importance of alumni, donors and friends of the University in spreading the word about McGill. There were a number of other events in Toronto and Montreal with the principal in attendance, and she met regularly with deans and other McGill staff, including working closely with Vice-Principal (Development and Alumni Relations) Derek Drummond, BArch'62, who says he "helped her get to know Montreal, McGill and the community she'll be working in." She has also been taking French courses to prepare for life in Quebec.

Munroe-Blum comes to McGill from the University of Toronto, where she was Vice-President, Research and International Relations. Retiring principal Bernard Shapiro, who also came to McGill from U of T, has a high opinion of the distinguished scholar and academic leader, and says, "she's a very, very interesting person and I think she'll be great for McGill."

view sidebar content | back to top of page