It's that time again. Every June the McGill Alumni Association holds its Annual General Meeting. Once the report reading and motion seconding are over, the fun gets under way. A cocktail reception is followed by a banquet at which awards are presented to the year's outstanding volunteers. Meet the winners for 1999.
Award of Merit
The Award of Merit is presented to a graduate who has enhanced the reputation and prestige of McGill University through a lifetime contribution of exceptional leadership and service to the University, the Alumni Association and the community. It is the MAA's highest award.
Michael Richards, BA'60, BCL'63
Michael Richards started at McGill as he meant to carry on, becoming involved in lots of activities on campus. He played hockey for the Redmen, was president of the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society and was a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity. Since graduating, Michael has practised law in Montreal with the firm of Stikeman, Elliott, where he is now a senior partner.
Fortunately for McGill, his interest and involvement in campus activities has never waned. He began serving in a variety of roles to help raise and manage funds for the University as far back as 1960 when he became Class Agent for Arts. In 1963, he took on the same job for his Law class. In 1970 he was appointed secretary of the Martlet Foundation, which provides bursaries, scholarships and awards to support outstanding student-athletes and other student leaders. Over the years he has been a director and treasurer of the Alumni Association, chair of the Alma Mater Fund, and a member of the McGill Fund Council, on which he still serves. During this decade's successful capital campaign, Michael took on the job of canvassing wealthy individuals for particular gifts to the University. More recently, he chaired the Committee on the Future of Development and Alumni Relations, which helped chart a new course for these two areas and whose report still serves as a blueprint for Vice-Principal Derek Drummond and his staff. Richards looks back on his years at McGill as a "wonderful time," and says he volunteers because "I have always been proud of McGill and I like to think that I am helping it to maintain its position as one of the leading universities."
E.P. Taylor Award
The E.P. Taylor Award is presented to a volunteer who has demonstrated outstanding voluntary service to the McGill Alma Mater Fund.
Barrie D. Birks, BA'70
Four years at McGill provided Barrie Birks with more than an undergraduate degree -- he also left with a fiancée. Barrie first encountered Ann Markham outside a French class where she was chatting with a friend. He joined the conversation, offered the young women a lift home and the rest, as they say, is history. Ann and Barrie were married a few months after they both graduated in 1970.
He went on to earn an MBA at Western and for the next 17 years, he worked in the family jewelry business, Henry Birks & Sons Ltd. Since 1990, he has been his own boss, running a small private investment company. Now a member of McGill's Board of Governors, Barrie has also shared his accumulated wisdom in the areas of marketing and finance over the last ten years by serving as Chair of the Alma Mater Fund Executive Committee, Chair of the McGill Annual Fund and Chair of the MAF's Marketing Committee, among other volunteer jobs.
Calling it "Canada's finest university," Barrie says McGill makes an "enormous cultural and economic contribution to life in Montreal." He adds that devoting time to the University isn't a chore for two reasons. "It's inspiring to work with people who accomplish so much despite huge financial challenges, and I enjoy the fun and interesting people who work and volunteer here."
David Johnston Award
The David Johnston Award was created to honour former principal David Johnston's leadership effort and is presented to a McGill faculty or staff member who has done exemplary work on behalf of the McGill Alma Mater Fund.
Abraham Fuks, BSc'68, MDCM'70
With his trademark bow tie and neatly trimmed beard, Dean of Medicine Abe Fuks is a familiar figure to many alumni. A popular speaker at branch events and a tireless traveller on behalf of McGill, the Dean says he happily adds visits to graduates and potential donors to his administrative duties out of gratitude for the education he received. "McGill gave me the opportunity to be who I am today. I owe it one. That sounds schmaltzy, but it's true."
After completing residencies in internal medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital and in clinical immunology and allergy at the Montreal General, he spent five years in postdoctoral research with Dr. Phil Gold at the General and in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Harvard. A McGill faculty member since 1978, Dean Fuks's academic interest has focused on identifying markers for certain forms of cancer. He has published close to 100 research papers and served for a time as Acting Director of the McGill Cancer Centre. He has also served as President of Martinex Science Inc. and Martinex R&D Inc., which explore the profit potential of research discoveries. He has always contributed through numerous committee activities to his faculty, to McGill and to various organizations in Canada and the U.S.
At the time he was named Dean of Medicine in 1995, a colleague attested to his considerable problem-solving skills: "He would fit in at the United Nations. He can sit in a room with people with very divergent views and reconcile them to a consensus that's respectful of everyone's opinions."
Distinguished Service Awards
Distinguished Service Awards are presented to alumni who have rendered outstanding service to the Alumni Association and McGill.
Margaret (Pierce) Swaine, BA'51
Peggy Swaine has been active in the Alumni Association for over a decade, most prominently in the Women's Alumnae Society, where she has served as president, vice-president, treasurer, and chair of the Scholarship Committee. She has also been a member of the Alumni Board of Directors, and her first summer job after graduation was at the McGill News.
Peggy says she has stayed so closely connected to McGill in large part because of family, in a number of senses: her parents and two of her children are graduates, and her cousins Betsy Rigal and Mike and Merilyn Crombie have been active in the Alumni Association and are past honorees. But Peggy also believes strongly in Lorne Gales's philosophy of the McGill community as family. She has a true fondness for that family. "At McGill," she says, "I get to meet some greatly talented individuals."
Her volunteer work has not been limited to McGill, and she has been involved with the Beaurepaire Library, the Juvenile Diabetes Society, and has worked as a volunteer at the Lakeshore General and Montreal General hospitals. "Everyone should take part in the care of our country and society -- and McGill. Though I can't do much by way of financial help, I think the time and ideas I have contributed have produced solid and visible results. That is what pleases me most."
Peter D. Knox, BSc(Agr)'74
This year marks Peter Knox's 25th as a McGill employee on the Macdonald Campus. He has managed Campus Care (grounds and roads) and Security at Macdonald for most of the last 22 years. "It's been a good use of my degree," says Peter. "I did a major in Wildlife and a minor in Conservation. Now I spend my time conserving the campus from the wildlife!"
He has done more than that: Peter has been a loyal and dedicated volunteer, serving on the executive of the Macdonald branch of the Alumni Association for the past 25 years, including two terms as president of the branch, most recently in 1996-97. He has been Chair and served on the Macdonald Homecoming Committee since 1977 and has been Chair of the Gold Key Award Committee since 1986 (these awards recognize students who show outstanding extra-curricular leadership and make significant contributions to Macdonald campus life).
Peter's work with the Alumni Association is a pleasure for both him and the MAA. "It's great to keep in touch with friends and make them welcome when they return to McGill. And my volunteer work has provided opportunities to meet many of the older grads and through them learn more of the history of Macdonald and McGill."
C. Gordon Lindsay, BEng'48
It has been nearly 30 years since Gordon Lindsay first became involved in the Alumni Association, initially in Vancouver and later in Edmonton and Calgary, before returning to Vancouver in 1980. Originally from the Gaspé, Gordon received his degree in Civil Engineering from McGill in 1948 and worked as an engineer in most provinces in Canada as well as internationally.
Mention his name and Alumni Association staff become effusive in their praise of this consummate volunteer. He has been branch president in both Vancouver and Edmonton, has always served on alumni branch executives, and was a team captain in the McGill 21st Century Fund campaign in 1994. There is hardly a branch alumni event that he has not attended: you will see him at most meetings, phonathons and other branch get-togethers. "I've always been happy to be involved with McGill and the local alumni societies," he says. "The new students at the annual send-off parties each summer are an inspiration as they look forward to studying in the grand University and living in vibrant Montreal." Despite a sextuple bypass operation two years ago, Gordon is still active in mountain hiking, skiing and biking, and has been a volunteer in fundraising not only for McGill but for the Anglican church and the Boys Scouts Association of Canada.
Honorary Life Memberships
Honorary Life Memberships are conferred on non-graduates who have demonstrated a long-term commitment of outstanding service to the Alumni Association and to the University.
Deborah J. Buszard
Deborah Buszard joined McGill in 1980 and is currently the Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the first woman to hold such a post in Canada.
Born in England, she holds a PhD in Horticulture from the University of London (Wye College). She is one of the three founding deans of McGill's new School of Environment, and is well known for her expertise in fruit breeding, having developed three varieties of strawberries at McGill -- the Chambly, Oka and Joliette -- which are now widely available commercially. She recently spearheaded the development of the EcoResidence on Macdonald Campus, a unique low-cost ecological residence where students both live and study.
Dr. Buszard stays in touch with local alumni and donors, and during last year's ice storm her contacts proved invaluable as she was able to quickly mobilize donations to purchase generators for Quebec farmers in hard-hit areas. She also travels extensively to spread the word about Macdonald and McGill, lately meeting alumni in Trinidad, Panama and Barbados, and helping to recruit new and talented students for the University. As a further service to the Alumni Association, she has agreed to join the Advisory Board of the McGill News.
Desmond Morton is the Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and is a well-known Canadian historian and political commentator who often contributes to the Montreal Gazette, the Toronto Star, the Ottawa Citizen and the CBC.
Originally from Calgary, he studied at Collège Militaire Royal de St-Jean, at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and received his PhD from the London School of Economics. Professor Morton is a former principal of Erindale College, University of Toronto, and is the author of 33 books on Canadian history, including A Short History of Canada; Working People: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Labour Movement; Victory 1945: Canadians from War to Peace; and recently, Wheels: The Car in Canada.
He says he's not sure how he qualifies for this "extraordinary honour from the Association. I did not even date McGill girls when I was at CMR! I suppose the chief benefit I have conferred on McGill is to work here for five years at the expense of the University of Toronto." He was appointed a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1985 and named an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1996.
He is a sought-after speaker for McGill and the Alumni Association, and graduates are always keen to hear his expert views firsthand on current events, Canadian history and politics.
A 20-year veteran at McGill, staff member Lydia Martone has spent the last decade in one of the University's hottest spots -- the Office of the Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance).
Alumni Association Executive Director Honora Shaughnessy says Lydia has been "an enormous help to us here in Development and Alumni Relations by providing quick access to information on budgets and changes in administrative policy." As if being executive assistant to the person who has to keep cutting McGill's budget isn't enough to handle, Lydia has always been in Shaughnessy's words a "volunteer extraordinaire." Recently, she was on the planning committee for a conference that brought 1,500 minority students to McGill to encourage them to follow careers in science and technology. During the capital campaign, Lydia acted as Group Chair of the Support Staff Division. She has also served on planning committees for the University's 175th Anniversary in 1996, and a memorable roast for former Principal David Johnston which raised funds for McGill libraries and several children's foundations.
Lydia says her service on the University Senate and on work groups like those which evaluate pay equity or help orient new Deans and Chairs "provides me the opportunity to give back to McGill" which has been for her "a tremendous place for personal and professional growth." In her spare time, Lydia has developed her skills as a ballroom dancer, and says she now does a mean Argentine tango.
Event of the Year Award
Faculty of Law 150th Anniversary Gala Dinner
The Event of the Year Award is given in recognition of an event which was well attended by alumni, guests and friends of the University; was well organized with attention to detail; received good publicity in local media creating community awareness for the local branch and McGill University; and ultimately reconnected alumni to their alma mater.
This year's winning event, marking the kick-off of the 150th anniversary of the Faculty of Law, was held in Toronto on November 4 and attracted 260 Law graduates and friends. Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie, BA'60, a former Leacock Luncheon speaker, left them laughing again as he regaled the crowd with humorous reflections on the Faculty.
Credit for the success of the occasion goes to Marie Finkelstein, BCL'77, LLB'79, and husband Neil Finkelstein, BA'73, LLB'79, co-chairs of the Toronto Organizing Committee, who put the evening together with the help of McGill staff and faculty members and a devoted team of Law graduate volunteers: David Bell,
Barry Goldberg, James Grant, Stephen Halperin, Miriam Kagan, Barbara Miller, Sarah Pepall, Christopher Portner, Michael Quigley, Martin Rabinovitch, and Joel Richler.
Another happy outcome of the evening was that proceeds of the dinner, combined with sponsorship by Canadian Pacific, raised $35,000 for a scholarship fund. Marie Finkelstein says this was her first fundraising event for McGill but adds it probably won't be her last. "It gave me great pleasure to reconnect with old friends and alumni, and I especially enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I experienced in doing something positive for such a worthy cause. I look forward to maintaining my connection to McGill, particularly the Faculty of Law, and to making further contributions in the future."
Branch of the Year Award: Vancouver Branch
The Branch of the Year Award is presented to a branch that offers a varied and creative program of events attracting a wide range of alumni. The branch should have a large, diverse board of volunteers who take on projects, with new volunteers joining regularly.
Led by president Suresh Fernando, BSc'88, (second from left in middle photo) since 1998, the Vancouver branch of the McGill Alumni Association has been one of our strongest branches, with a great group of volunteers organizing a wide variety of events that appeal to all ages and interests.
As a result of the work of those dedicated volunteers, the branch put together a fantastic, first-ever Leacock Luncheon last year with novelist and CBC personality Bill Richardson as the guest speaker. Other events offered by the branch are a smorgasbord of activities for alumni: theatre nights, winetastings, ski weekends, pub nights, barbeques, as well as the always popular golf tournament between McGill and Concordia graduates, branch participation in the annual Sun Run at Stanley Park, and the traditional fall dinner, which this year featured the documentary McGill, Mahler and Montreal presented by Dean of Music Richard Lawton, BMus'66, as well as performances by McGill music graduates.
Suresh and his fellow Vancouver grads are very active in the Volunteer Regional Phonathon and are always successful at bringing in new volunteers and enthusiastic young graduates, ensuring that the branch is a vibrant group of alumni with representatives from every decade.
Chancellor Gretta Chambers Student Awards
The Chancellor Gretta Chambers Student Awards are given to students who have demonstrated leadership qualities while contributing to the advancement of alumni activities in a volunteer capacity.
Stephanie Taylor is a law student and the current Chair of Class Action, and in that role she has managed a team of 200 student volunteers in an effort to raise $50,000 from graduating students for faculty projects on both campuses. She has previously done fundraising for the Faculty of Law and the Royal Victoria Hospital. Stephanie is a remarkable public speaker and managed to entice more than 20 of her fellow students to participate in the Montreal Regional Phonathon this year.
Sonja Vojnovic is graduating with a BA in Political Science and Slavic Studies (Honours). She has been a member of the Student Organization for Alumni Relations since 1996, and was SOAR's Vice-President (Services) in 1998 and President in 1999. She has spearheaded a review of SOAR's constitution and has overseen the group's new involvement with the Principal's office. She has also served as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, as a blood drive coordinator for SSMU and as a Class Action volunteer. Sonja's commitment to McGill and the Alumni Association is exemplary.
Simon Thomas is graduating with a PhD in Mathematics. He was the President of the McGill International Students' Network (MISN) in 1998, during which time he maintained a close involvement with the Alumni Association. As a result of his work, MISN holds its annual welcome party for international students at Martlet House and also gives a dinner for the Alumni Association staff in the springtime. Simon's volunteer work spans several continents: he has been a volunteer teacher at St. Mark's College in South Africa, and a volunteer tutor at a children's camp in the Czech Republic, in addition to the work he has done at McGill. He is a regular participant at MAA functions and an enthusiastic ambassador for McGill.
Duncan Reid is a familiar face to students and members of the McGill community. Duncan has been involved with student politics throughout his time at McGill, serving as Vice-President (Finance) of the Students' Society of McGill University in 1997-98 and as President in 1998-99. A significant accomplishment of Duncan's this year was his initiative to introduce the McGill Student Fund, a five-year levy with a target of $5.7 million to help finance libraries, renovations to the University Centre and a bursary for students in financial difficulty. The administration has agreed to match all money raised dollar for dollar. The Vancouver-born economics student has been a consistent supporter of all Development and Alumni Relations activities and is a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Beth Robertson is a physical and occupational therapy student and has been very active at McGill in athletics. She took the MVP award for the Women's Field Hockey Team this year and was named 1997-98 All-Canadian in her sport. She recently received the Dr. Muriel V. Roscoe Award presented for proficiency and leadership in athletics at McGill. Beth has served as Vice-Chair of the McGill Athletics Board, as Co-Chair of the McGill Intercollegiate Sport Council, and has been a member of the Student Athletic Council, the Sports Hall of Fame Committee and the Deans' Advisory Committee for Women's Issues. She is the Graduate Assistant at the Intercollegiate Office, and was volunteer organizer at the CIAU Soccer Championships and CIAU Track and Field Championships. Beth is also active in the Montreal community, working as a Special Olympics volunteer soccer coach, a volunteer at the Montreal General Hospital Geriatric Ward, and is a regular participant in Canadian Cancer Society events.
Branch President of the Year
The Branch President of the Year Award is presented to a branch president who over his/her term has served with outstanding enthusiasm and leadership.
Robert E. Juhasz, LLB'95, Netherlands Branch
Robert established the Netherlands branch in 1997 and since then has worked diligently at developing a network of alumni and friends that has grown to 150 members so far. In the past year and a half, he has held three tremendously successful events: a cocktail reception hosted by his employer PricewaterhouseCoopers; a cocktail reception at Canadian Ambassador Marie Bernard-Meunier's official residence; and a tour of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda with guest speaker Madame Justice Louise Arbour.
Robert has made valuable contacts at the Canadian Embassy, in the corporate community and with other educational institutions, and has been a tireless and enthusiastic leader. Through contacts with the Canadian Embassy, Robert and other volunteers have worked hard to promote McGill to Dutch students and his efforts have been very well received.
He draws great satisfaction from his volunteer work, noting that organized alumni relations are not common in the Netherlands and that Dutch friends and colleagues who had no further contact with their own alma maters were "rather amused by the very 'American' style of newsletters, magazines and emblazoned memorabilia being sent over for our branch. The irony is once they saw the branch getting off the ground and the fun and interesting activities being organized, many commented that they were jealous and wished such a network existed for them."