Dear members of the McGill community:

McGill’s Board of Governors is responsible for the administration of the University’s academic, business and financial affairs. On Thursday, October 5, the Board held the first of five meetings scheduled for the 2017-2018 academic year. Here are the meeting’s important discussions, decisions and developments.

I began my opening remarks by expressing the McGill community’s sadness over the passing of Gretta Chambers, Chancellor Emerita and great friend to the University. The Board endorsed a motion of condolence to her family.

Because the Board had not met since May, I had several topics to cover:

  • Fall 2017 semester:
    • There was again excellent collaboration between our student groups, the Milton Park community, the Montreal Police and the University to make Orientation Week and Frosh a fun, safe and energizing time.
    • We will not have final numbers until the third week of October, but our total student body is expected to increase by approximately 2.2% over last year. Slightly more than 50% of our students come from Quebec; 20.1% come from elsewhere in Canada, and 29.6% come to McGill from abroad. Our top five countries of origin for international students were the same as last year: U.S. is number-one, followed by (in order) China, France, India and Saudi Arabia.
  • Rankings: Several major world university rankings were announced in August and September. McGill continues to be one of the world’s leading institutions of higher learning:
    • Times Higher Education: #42 out of 1,102 universities
    • Shanghai (Academic Ranking of World Universities): #67 out of 500
    • Nature Index for Innovation: #103 out of 200, and the top Canadian institution, for influence of research on patents
  • Federal government relations:
    • On April 10, the federal Fundamental Science Review panel released “Investing in Canada’s Future: Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research.” McGill is collaborating with universities across Canada on a coordinated campaign to advocate for the full implementation of the report’s recommendations for federal reinvestment in fundamental research, international and interdisciplinary collaborations, and supporting talented researchers throughout their careers.
    • McGill alumna Mona Nemer, PhD’82, is Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor. McGill looks forward to working with her to advance research and innovation in Canada.
  • Quebec government relations: McGill and four of our fellow Quebec universities are working with the government to explore several scenarios for a new Politique de financement des universités québecoises.
  • McGill University Health Centre (MUHC): On Sept. 18, Quebec’s Health and Social Services Minister Gaétan Barrette announced 10 new independent members of the MUHC Board, led by new Chair Peter Kruyt. The new Board will soon name a permanent CEO, and a permanent Director of the MUHC Research Institute.
  • External relations
    • Facebook opened a new artificial intelligence research facility in Montreal, to be led by Prof. Joëlle Pineau.
    • Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain: McGill joined the new working committee of Montreal-based universities, to develop and launch a communications campaign to increase the public awareness of the contribution of higher education institutions to Montreal and, more generally, to the Quebec society.
    • Montreal’s 375th and Canada’s 150th anniversaries: McGill hosted a number of events this summer, including the official opening of the Promenade Fleuve-Montagne.
    • MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program: On Oct. 17-19, I will attend the annual meeting of presidents from participating universities, in Kigali, Rwanda. I am proud that 61 academically gifted and socially committed MasterCard Foundation Scholars from 16 African countries are currently enrolled at McGill.
    • World Economic Forum: I have accepted the Vice-Chair position of the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF), and will again be participating in the WEF’s Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2018.
  • Community relations
    • School of Architecture: On Sept. 26, Peter Guo-hua Fu, DipMinHous’91, announced a $12-million gift to the School, which will be named in his honour.
    • The Campus Planning and Development Office will host an Open House (Oct. 11-13) on lower field.
    • Homecoming: McGill is set to welcome close to 4,000 alumni from Oct. 12-14. Professor Emeritus Charles Taylor will give the annual Beatty Memorial Lecture, on the subject of “The Challenge of Regressive Democracy.”
  • Centraide: The 2017 McGill Centraide campaign launched on Oct. 4. Thanks to the generosity of the McGill community, last year’s campaign raised $513,493, which was $10,000 above the goal.

I ended my remarks by congratulating some members of the McGill community for their recent outstanding achievements:

  • On Oct. 2, Julie Payette, BEng’86, was installed as Canada’s 29th Governor General.
  • Jennifer Sidy, BEng’11, is the Canadian Space Agency’s newest astronaut.
  • In June, seven members of the McGill community were named to, or promoted within, the Order of Canada. Six other McGillians were appointed to the National Order of Quebec.
  • The Royal Society of Canada will honour 18 McGill researchers on November 24. Nine of our researchers will be inducted as Fellows of the RSC. Seven other McGill researchers will be elected to the RSC’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, a group of the best of the emerging generation of knowledge leaders. Prof. Michel Tremblay (Faculty of Medicine) will receive the RSC’s McLaughlin Medal for sustained excellence in medical science research, and postdoctoral fellow Mélanie Guigueno (Department of Natural Resource Sciences) will receive the Alice Wilson Award.
  • Claudia Mitchell, James McGill Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies, has earned a prestigious Trudeau Fellowship for her research on girlhood in Ethiopia, South Africa and Canada.

The Board received:

  • a report from the Executive Committee;
  • a notice of the annual joint Board-Senate meeting, to be held on Nov. 15, on the topic “Building stronger communities and citizenship through mentorship.”

Christopher Manfredi, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), presented two reports that he had given to Senate on Sept. 19:

Anja Geitmann, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, gave an informative presentation about activities, initiatives and developments in the Faculty and at the Macdonald Campus.

The Board approved the annual standard borrowing resolution from Financement-Québec and the following committee items:

  • The Building and Property Committee recommended a renewal of the delegation of authority, under the Act respecting contracting by public bodies, to the Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance). The delegation is effective until April 30, 2021.
  • The Audit Committee presented the Auditor’s Report and Audited Financial Statements for FY2016-2017. The auditors expressed the opinion that the statements are a fair and accurate representation of the University’s financial position at April 30, 2017. Our FY2016-2017 financial statements will be posted shortly. The Board also approved the Audit Committee’s recommendation to implement a new Policy on the Approval of Contracts and Designation of Signing Authority, effective May 2018.
  • The Nominating, Governance and Ethics (NGE) Committee recommended to the Board the reappointment of Claude Généreux as the Vice-Chair of the Board, until June 30, 2020. The Board approved this recommendation and thanked Mr. Généreux for his continued service. In addition, the Board approved a number of appointments and reappointments to Board Standing Committees and to various internal and external bodies. The Board also approved a policy for the development and review of governing documents.

Martha Crago, Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation), received the Board’s approval to execute an interinstitutional agreement between McGill University, the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of British Columbia for a Major Sciences Initiative Fund, valued at $11.9 million, from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Yves Beauchamp, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance), presented the first annual report on McGill’s sustainability and climate-related activities, in line with the Board’s stewardship of the sustainability file.

The Board received a report from Senate on its meeting of Sept. 19. The report included recommendations for new appointments to the University Appeals Committee.

A 20-minute community session was held immediately following the open session. The Board received three questions that had been submitted by community members. The questions and responses are available here. There are two community sessions each year; the next one will be on February 15, 2018.

I will share key actions and discussions from the Board’s next meeting, which will be held on December 12. (The 2017-2018 schedule is here.) The full minutes from the open session of last year’s final meeting, held on May 25, plus a summary of items dealt with during that meeting’s closed session, are now available online; the minutes from last week’s meeting will be available following approval by the Board in December.

I welcome your thoughts, ideas and questions. You can always contact me at



Suzanne Fortier

Principal and Vice-Chancellor


October 25, 2017