McGill to welcome two inaugural recipients of the prestigious new awards program
By Gary Francoeur
When 16-year-old Julie Wong learned she had won a Schulich Leader Scholarship, her good fortune didn’t seem quite real. “I just couldn’t wrap my head around it,” she admits. “When I read the email, there was an initial moment of shock and disbelief.”
But thanks largely to this prestigious prize, Wong will pack her bags and head to Montreal this autumn to study chemical engineering at McGill. Joining her on a similar academic journey will be fellow Schulich Leader award recipient Michael Kourlas, who plans to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.
The two students are among the 40 inaugural recipients of the Schulich Leader Scholarships program, which seeks to empower future Canadian leaders who are entering the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at 20 selected universities. The scholarships, each valued at $60,000 over four years, are among the most generous undergraduate awards in the country. The program is being managed by the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto.
The historic new initiative, established through a visionary $100-million endowment created by mining mogul and McGill graduate Seymour Schulich, BSc’61, MBA’65, DLitt’04, promises to have the kind of far-reaching educational impact created by esteemed programs like the Rhodes Scholarships and the Gates Cambridge Scholarships.
“The Schulich Leader Scholarship represents an enormous personal accomplishment for me,” says Kourlas, 17. “I’m very grateful to Seymour Schulich for his generosity, and I’ll be working hard to make sure the scholarship money is put to good use.”
Kourlas adds that he could hardly contain his excitement when he learned he had been selected from among almost 1,000 nominees. “After I read the offer, I ran over to the phone to call my parents, almost tripping over a chair in the process,” he says. “They were equally excited about the news.”
Wong shined as one of the top students at the York House School in Vancouver, B.C. She excelled in science competitions, debating and public speaking, and she volunteered for several community programs, including Ronald McDonald House and the Kidsafe Project, which provides a nurturing haven for vulnerable inner-city children.
Kourlas, for his part, graduated at the head of his class from Ashbury College in Ottawa, Ont. He is an accomplished debater, public speaker and programmer, and he has won prizes in chemistry, physics, computer science history and philosophy.
“It is with great pride and enthusiasm that we welcome both of these exceptional young leaders to McGill, and join our sister universities in bringing this historic initiative to life,” says Principal Heather Munroe-Blum. “Seymour Schulich has been a most remarkable friend to our University as well as one of its greatest benefactors and ambassadors, and the Schulich Leader Scholarships demonstrate more powerfully than ever his vision, generosity and commitment in advancing the cause of higher education in Canada.”
Schulich, who credits a scholarship with enabling him to complete his own MBA at McGill, has consistently stepped forward with transformative gifts to strengthen his alma mater. In 2005, he donated $20 million towards the Faculty of Music, which was renamed the Schulich School of Music in his honour, and followed up the next year by establishing the Golden Violin Award, a scholarship that has been described as the “Stanley Cup of classical music.”
In September 2008, Schulich invested $5 million to support graduate students in agricultural and environmental sciences, architecture and urban planning, physics, and mathematics and statistics. He also established McGill’s Schulich Library of Science and Engineering.
Now, through his latest act of philanthropy, Schulich is again creating unique opportunities for some of the most promising young scholars and leaders in the country.
“This scholarship means a lot,” Wong says. “McGill is an amazing place, and thanks to this award, I’ll be able to avoid financial barriers and really explore all of the wonderful opportunities that are open to me.”