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Tribute to Paul R. MacPherson

Paul R. MacPherson

Message from Lori Goff, Director

Paul R. MacPherson leaves behind a legacy of incredible impact. His support and generosity reached many students, instructors and staff at McMaster University and beyond. Over the years, he contributed to the teaching and learning community in many ways, including in 2016, when he generously donated $5 million to invest in the development of great teachers at McMaster. In recognition of this substantial gift, the “McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning” was renamed the “Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching.”

Since then, the MacPherson Institute has worked collaboratively with the teaching and learning community at McMaster to refine and build upon the important work of supporting McMaster’s educators and learners. The spirit of Paul’s values and commitment to education remain embedded in the MacPherson Institute’s vision statement: to cultivate an environment where learning deeply matters, and teaching is valued and recognized at McMaster.

Paul was always very interested and supportive of the work we do. Through the years, I had opportunities to share with him our evolving mission and mandate, the launch of our strategic plan in 2019, details of our ongoing impact and many of our accomplishments. He showed a genuine curiosity and delight in understanding how his support was enhancing learning experiences for students and building successful teaching outcomes for instructors at McMaster. I know he was very proud of the dedication, achievements, and people, both, at the MacPherson Institute and within the McMaster teaching and learning community.

I am so grateful to have known Paul and I continue to be inspired by his vision, values, and generosity. Although he has passed, his legacy will live on in our work at the MacPherson Institute and in a thriving teaching and learning community at McMaster.

Paul R. MacPherson (1933 – 2021)

Long-time McMaster supporter and alumnus Paul R. MacPherson ’57 will be remembered as a leading figure in the Canadian business community, an outstanding corporate citizen committed to giving back, a dedicated professor and an exceptional philanthropist who believed wholeheartedly in the power of higher education. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy—one that will continue to be felt at the university for generations to come.

A member of the McMaster community for more than 60 years, MacPherson left his mark across campus, supporting hundreds of students in financial need, establishing a chair to advance Indigenous scholarship, creating fellowships to enhance teaching excellence at McMaster, and making an unprecedented investment in the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which was renamed the Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching in his honour.

MacPherson’s deep connection to McMaster began in 1952, when he took a “preliminary year,” a unique program then offered by the university, which allowed him to earn the credits he needed to enrol as an undergraduate. In 1957, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in geography from the Faculty of Social Sciences, then landed a job at Imperial Oil before going on to complete an MBA.

MacPherson spent the next 14 years as a tenured business professor at the University of Guelph until, in 1977, he purchased Valcom Limited, which specialized in broadband antennas for the military. Under his direction, Valcom diversified and expanded across Canada, becoming a multi-million-dollar company, and exporting products to over 30 countries worldwide.

MacPherson’s strong sense of corporate citizenship led Valcom to support more than 20 community organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the Ontario Special Olympics, to name a few.

MacPherson never forgot the importance of higher learning, often crediting his postsecondary education with providing him with the skills and opportunity to succeed as both a businessman and a professor.

In 1998, he became an integral McMaster supporter when he established the Paul R. MacPherson Bursary, created in response to MacPherson’s belief that all students should be able to pursue their educational goals. The award gives preference to students from MacPherson’s high school in Bracebridge, Ontario as well as to students from Indigenous communities. The bursary fund remains one of McMaster’s largest and has supported more than 500 students.

Passionate about supporting Indigenous scholarship, culture, and art, in 2009 MacPherson established the Paul R. MacPherson Chair in Indigenous Studies, which contributes significantly to scholarship in Indigenous knowledge with an emphasis on preserving Haudenosaunee knowledge, languages, culture and history. In 2012, he donated a significant collection of works by Indigenous artists to the McMaster Museum of Art (MMA), effectively establishing an important Woodland Collection at the MMA.

In 2009, MacPherson established the Paul R. MacPherson Teaching Fellowships, which provide exemplary instructors with opportunities to enhance their teaching, a reflection of MacPherson’s deep commitment to supporting teaching and learning.

Then in 2016, he made a landmark investment in teaching excellence at McMaster with a $5 million gift to support the Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching. The institute has since provided significant new opportunities to develop and enhance evidence-based teaching and learning practices, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, has been instrumental in supporting McMaster faculty and students in the transition to virtual learning.

A supporter of the Class of 1957 bursary, MacPherson was also an active member of McMaster’s alumni community who rarely missed an opportunity to meet his fellow graduates at alumni events held over the years.

One of McMaster’s most valued supporters, MacPherson was inducted into McMaster’s Alumni Gallery in 2004, and in 2010 received an honorary degree in recognition of his business accomplishments and for his extraordinary contributions to McMaster.