New Hands on Deck
A cerebral, consensus-building architect takes charge of McGill fundraising and alumni relations

by Felixa de Amesti

New VP Derek Drummond, BArch'62 (centre), gets some sage advice from Fran Hamilton, BSc'41 (left) and Alex Hamilton, BEng'40

For years, the irrepressible director of the School of Architecture poked fun at the very job he now holds. "VP, Spare Change," he'd quip at the rowdy Leacock Luncheon held each Homecoming weekend in Montreal. Even Stephen Leacock would have appreciated the irony as Derek Drummond, 58, became that very "VP." As of September 1, 1996, Drummond began overseeing 80 staff located at Martlet House and Rabinovitch House responsible for raising at least $40 million per year and for creating a strong network of alumni.

For years, McGill's fundraising and alumni efforts have been unsurpassed. McGill consistently raises more money on an annual basis than any other Canadian university. The 100-branch alumni network is strong and responds enthusiastically to McGill's polite entreaties, whether it be calling prospective students, hosting professors, housing visiting students, or giving specialized advice. Drummond, the academic, is no stranger to the whole operation. He has long been a regular speaker to alumni and campaigned for the Twenty-First Century Fund. Yet he wasn't interested in the Vice-Principal job when approached to be a candidate. "I was happy in Architecture, I really liked the job I had," he commented. But after McGill's top candidate declined, Principal Bernard Shapiro called on Drummond's sense of duty. He agreed, with one provision: teaching would still be part of his duties. He has no problem seeing the link between teaching "Site Usage and Civic Design" and fundraising.

"The hard truth is we need all the gifts and donations we can get right now. If more of my colleagues became involved in fundraising, we would be more successful."

Derek and Anne Drummond, BA'61, MA'86 (who has a PhD in history from Ottawa), live in Westmount and have four boys, Colin, Gavin, BA'88, Rob, BA'90, and Louis. Drummond regularly walks to work and eschews the executive parking spot in front of Martlet House. It gives him time to ponder new ideas. "I want to engage volunteers and donors in more than fundraising, such as student recruitment, and develop more of a spirit. Contacting people once a year is not enough." He does not believe in preferential admission for children of graduates, but does believe in special treatment in relaying the news if their child is to be refused. Admissions and the Alumni Association are collaborating on executing this idea.

As the architect turned fundraiser, he is concerned about deferred maintenance of McGill's buildings (at least $150 million worth) and writes frequently about threats to Montreal's architectural heritage. Readers of The Gazette in Montreal know that Drummond has routinely railed against mega projects. He said the Anglican Church was "led into temptation" for allowing an underground mall to be built under the Christ Church Cathedral on St. Catherine Street. He argued that the proposed Montreal "superhospital" would be destructive to Montreal's urban fabric, and argued against concerts on Ile Ste. Hélène ("a place of refuge from the busy city," he wrote).

"There are few cities in the world which are more livable than Montreal," says Drummond, a proud Montrealer with Irish roots. "The quality of life we have here is extraordinary." For those who believe McGill might not overcome current difficulties, Drummond asserts there will be no backslide. "McGill has too much momentum." It's an idea alumni can take to heart.