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The Difference between Americans and Canadians
By Dr. Darryl Fry

Dr. Darryl D. Fry, B.Sc.'59, LLD (Hon.) '97, retired as chair and CEO of Cytec Industries Inc. in 1999. The company was ranked fourth of the top 1250 companies in the USA for financial performance from 1994-96. A native of St. John''s Newfoundland, and co-founder of the Fry Family Foundation, Dr. Fry is a proud alumnus and remains one of Memorial's strongest supporters. This article first appeared in Luminus (Fall/Winter 2004/05).

My wife Marlene and I live, pay taxes and read newspapers on both sides of the border. I could talk Canadian views versus American views on Iraq, health care, environment, Olympics, gay marriage, United Nations, abortion, taxes, religion or unions but it would not serve any purpose. I see fewer differences between the views expressed in the Globe & Mail and the NY Times than I see between papers within the USA. The average American is not much different than the average Canadian. Sometimes the politicians differ but their views do not prevail for long. Marlene and I have exercised our democratic right in two national elections this year and it is just as hard to find a good candidate to vote for on either side of the border.

There are a few differences that seem to prevail between these two neighbours. For instance, Canadians are taxed heavily while alive. Americans get ripped off when they die. In the USA I can get my car, toilet, computer, dog and myself looked after in about the same amount of time. In Canada it takes a lot longer to get myself looked after. The subtlest difference I see is that Canadians put a much higher priority on being liked than do Americans. Americans put a higher priority on winning.

When it comes to sports I will always cheer for the Canadians. Seeing Mike Weir win The Masters golf tournament was the all-time highlight of my armchair athletic career. But, when it comes to politics, I favor the Americans. At a major chemical association dinner, Senator Pat Roberts, chair of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, surprised everyone when he stood up and spoke passionately about the importance of immigration and the responsibilities of being a citizen of the USA. And I was honoured when he welcomed Marlene and me as new Americans. After dinner, we listened to guest speaker Colin Powell. I witnessed true leadership that evening and I felt the significance of American politics.

There are also differences between the two neighbours when it comes to charitable giving. Canadians give more to social causes. Americans give more to religious organizations. Americans support their universities many times more than do Canadians. Princeton's endowment fund per student is US$1.2M whereas McGill's is C$27K. MUN alumni gave nearly $1M to their university last year. Harvard gets that much in contributions every day. And, I would hope that MUN contributions are high for Canada as Newfoundlanders are known as the biggest per capita givers to charities in the country.

Seven years ago Marlene and I set up the Fry Family Foundation to focus some of our assets and time on charitable causes. About 90 per cent of our effort is devoted to our Newfoundland roots, with MUN benefiting the most. We have endowed or committed to 62 annual scholarships. Why scholarships? We could think of nothing better than to play a small part in financing the growth of Newfoundland and Labrador's bright young prospects. All recipients must attend MUN. We feel the extra motivation and confidence a scholarship brings to a student is even more important than the financial aid. We host an annual dinner, to which the main scholarship winners and a guest are invited for the four years of their undergraduate studies. We also offer assistance with career planning.

What do we get out of it? We enjoy letters from students who say they have made their community proud. We have seen students change majors because of networking at our dinner meetings. We have seen students who in their first year could hardly utter a word come back in the fourth year and give an inspiring after-dinner speech or recruit for their first employer. The bottom line is we get to hang out with Newfoundland's future and we always go away highly motivated.

The economy of Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to struggle, at least in the short- to medium-term. If we let MUN struggle it will be much worse than the loss of the cod. So this is an appeal to those who can afford it to step up and be counted and support your university.