Of course, size matters. You don’t need to be a biologist to know that…
February 12th, 2010


Of course, size matters. You don’t need to be a biologist to know that. Graduate Studies got a great big giant cheque this week, the kind you can’t fold in your wallet or tear up in teeny weeny shards of paper, but the kind you can hang on a museum wall or hang on the side of a bus. I do my banking with CIBC, always have, but this week I am thinking about switching over to the green team, TD Trust that is, my new close personal banking friends who had the wisdom to donate the cheque.

Fundraising is now an essential part of any self-respecting public institution’s agenda. It always was, but in a much more passive way. Today, most post-secondary institutions have experienced, aggressive leaders, Vice Presidents or Directors, who command large offices, handsome salaries, and dedicated teams of worker bees whose only job it is to find the money. If a university is fortunate enough to boast a real connector as a Chancellor, then the doors to the money are opened a lot more smoothly. Once upon a time, Chancellors used to be figureheads. Today they are celebrities, former politicians, gazillionaires, publishers, broadcasters, athletes — in other words, people who achieved a measure of fame and can speed dial at least five Very Important People.

Such is certainly the case with our own Top Guy, Retired General Chancellor Rick Hillier (RGCRH). A scan of the Chancellor’s list in Canada (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadian_university_leaders) not only demonstrates the nature of the job these days but shows just how influential our own Chancellor is among such an illustrious group. By all accounts, even his own, RGCRH made the great big giant cheque from TD happen for us this week. I am sure this guy could talk a snake out of its own skin, so expert is he at pitching a proposition for the cause. In this case, the cause was, happily, Memorial University, and the specific beneficiary was the School of Graduate Studies, which received an endowment of $400,000 towards students who are doing environment-based research. At Memorial, that sphere captures a lot of students across the research spectrum, from the Medical School to the Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. Environment is a great big fat giant word, too, but we generally know what we mean by it these days, and it won’t be too difficult for us to find ways to distribute a TD scholarship or two every year to those eligible graduate students most deserving of it.

The entire celebration of the announcement was exhilarating. The sheer presence of RGCRH seems to galvanize people into sitting up straight. When he spoke at the celebratory luncheon he was a model of calculated extemporaneity. If we all had his silver tongue we’d be leading armies, too. The gracious appearance of our Lt. Governor and the former Chancellor, the Hon. John Crosby (PC, OC, ONL, QC, LLB, BSc), always focuses attention, especially since you never know what the multi-initialed one will say if given the chance. The provincial government was appropriately represented by the Minister of Education who got a few laughs when he said it was nice to be at an event and not handing out the great big giant cheque himself for a change.

Of course, on hand to wave the Company flag was a phalanx of TD Trust managers, some of them looking young enough to be opening their first bank account, but then that’s probably just me. Honestly, I don’t care how old they are. I am deeply grateful to the whole TD team for having the wisdom of establishing this endowment in the first place. It does all of them—and us—a great credit, and I mean that in the full banking sense of the term, too.

Perhaps most importantly, a number of graduate students who are already doing important environment-based research were present to show off their well crafted posters and demonstrate the potential the TD endowment has for generating more of such good work. It is hard not to be humbled by their confidence and smarts, kind of makes one feel warm and gratified all over.

May all our celebrations be as fruitful and multiplying as this one!


Dr. Faye Murrin is Dean pro tempore of the School of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. She completed her B.Sc. (Hons.) at Memorial University, her M.Sc. at Acadia University, and her Ph.D. at Queen's University. Her research interests have always been focused on fungi, in particular the cell biology of insect pathogenic fungi and, more recently, the ecology of mycorrhizal mushrooms in the boreal forest. Dr. Murrin has served in a number of positions on the Council of the Mycological Society of America and was awarded the title of MSA Fellow for her contributions. She was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Membership Award as founding co-director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Summer Program. Dr. Murrin participates in public lectures and workshops, and is a Director on the board of Newfoundland Foray, Inc.

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