New Trottier gift for the love of science

McGill has received a transformative $15-million donation from the family foundation of high-tech entrepreneur and alumnus Lorne Trottier to strengthen vital research and support outreach and public policy in the areas of science and engineering, as well as to launch a public symposium in collaboration with Université de Montréal’s École Polytechnique. The gift will create the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design in the Faculty of Engineering and endow the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy in the Faculty of Science.
Lorne Trottier (far right) shows off his replica of James McGill’s famous keys, a gift presented by Principal Munroe-Blum, Interim Dean of Engineering Andrew Kirk (left) and Dean of Science Martin Grant (centre). / Photo: Owen Egan

$15-million gift will support key initiatives in Faculties of Science and Engineering

By Gary Francoeur

As a young boy, Lorne Trottier (BEng’70, MEng’73, DSc’06) was asked by a relative what he wanted to be when he grew up. “A scientist,” came his quick, confident reply. Trottier’s youthful fascination with all things scientific and technological has grown as he has, first motivating him through his Engineering studies at McGill and then continuing to fuel him as co-founder of Matrox Electronics Systems, his Montreal-based video graphics company.

That same passion was also a driving force behind a new $15-million donation from Trottier and his family to herald a new era of scientific and engineering research and outreach at McGill and to launch an exciting new partnership with École Polytechnique de Montréal. The landmark gift, officially announced at a Passport to the Future Tour alumni event in Montreal on Monday, Nov. 5, will create the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design in the Faculty of Engineering and endow the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy in the Faculty of Science.

“I am dismayed by the dangerous science illiteracy that pervades much of our society on issues such as climate change or the safety of vaccines. I believe that universities such as McGill have a crucial role to play not only in educating the next generation of scientists and engineers, but as centres of enlightenment for the broader society,” said Trottier, addressing an audience of over 350 McGill alumni and friends who had gathered at the Centre Mont Royal.

The Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design will serve as a think tank to better educate decision-makers and the broad public about sustainability policy issues, and will collaborate with École Polytechnique to launch an annual public symposium that explores the impact of sustainable engineering on society.

Meanwhile, the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy will provide leadership in advancing science-driven policy while enhancing scientific literacy in the public at large. Through fellowships, undergraduate research awards and a host of activities, including public forums, publications and outreach initiatives, the institute will provide a unique nexus for discussion, training and advocacy, with the aim of having a positive impact on many of the important social issues facing Canada and the rest of the world.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum personally praised Trottier for his visionary philanthropy and important role in helping the University advance in the fields of science and engineering.

“Lorne, you exemplify the passion, dedication and vision that have characterized McGill’s great builders since James McGill’s founding gift established our University 191 years ago,” she said, moments before presenting him with a token of appreciation: an exact replica of James McGill’s original keys to the Burnside Estate, located where the University now stands.

Guests at the Passport to the Future event were also treated to a fascinating discussion on issues of scientific innovation that was moderated by Globe and Mail public health reporter André Picard and featured panelists Dr. Joe Schwarcz, Director of McGill’s Office for Science and Society, Taryn Tomlinson (BEng’98), a Robotic Systems Engineer at the Canadian Space Agency, and John Pritz, a student in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and co-founder of a non-profit media company called Developing Pictures.

A McGill Governor Emeritus, Trottier has contributed generously to his alma mater to support new research chairs, graduate fellowships and the construction of the state-of-the-art Lorne M. Trottier Building, now home to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the School of Computer Science. Just last year, he gave $5.5 million to endow the McGill Office for Science and Society and the popular Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium Series and Mini-Science Series, annual symposia that engage a broad public audience and promote scientific debate.