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The game changer

The Desautels Faculty of Management celebrates the 15th anniversary of the $22-million gift that ushered in an era of historic growth and impact.

Marcel Desautels looking at a portrait of Morty Yalovsky

In the early 2000s, McGill's Faculty of Management was facing externally imposed budgetary restrictions which were compromising the very future of the Faculty itself.

“The calibre of academic programs and career services expected of a top-ranked business school were beyond our reach,” remembers Professor Anthony C. Masi, who served as McGill’s Provost at the time. “To remain competitive and continue to attract talented faculty, students, and staff, we knew we had to locate additional resources to launch an academic renewal plan.”

Enter Dr. Marcel Desautels, LLD’07 (CM, O Ont, OM), a tenth-generation Canadian who achieved dazzling business success with very little fanfare. The native of St-Boniface, Manitoba, led Creditel of Canada, the country’s largest commercial credit and debt recovery bureau, for 25 record-breaking years before overseeing the sale of the company in 1996. He used the proceeds to create the Canadian Credit Management Foundation (CCMF), a nonprofit organization that has left a lasting imprint on Canadian business education.

In 2005, Marcel, through the CCMF, donated $22 million to the McGill Faculty of Management, the largest single donation ever made to a Canadian business or management faculty.

“We wanted to make a broader impact in the world of business by helping to shape well-rounded leaders with the ability to think analytically and create value across disciplines,” says Dr. Desautels. In recognition of his monumental gift, the Faculty of Management adopted a new name in Dr. Desautels’ honour.

Catalyzing 15 years of growth

“What have his donations allowed us to do in the past 15 years?” reflects Interim Dean Morty Yalovsky, who has served McGill for more than 50 years. “Pretty much everything. Every single person who has walked through our doors has experienced the ripple effects of Marcel’s generosity in one way or another.”

Since 2005, Dr. Desautels has equipped the Faculty to invest more deeply than ever before in world-class programs, talent, and facilities. With the support of the Marcel Desautels Institute for Integrated Management, established in 2011 with $10 million in further funding from Marcel, the Faculty’s flagship Bachelor of Commerce and MBA programs underwent extensive curriculum redesign to more closely align their program components with evolving market demands and student needs.

In 2018, the Financial Times placed the MBA program, now restructured and self-funding, at the top of its Canadian rankings for the first time ever. “With Marcel’s help, we moved many of our Faculty programs to a self-funding model,” reveals Professor Masi. “His gift made it possible for us to sustain the high quality of our programs into the future.”

Newly created specialized masters programs in analytics and finance have achieved extraordinary success in only a few years. In the 2021 QS World University Rankings, these programs both placed first in their categories in Canada and in the top 20 globally. The newly created Master of Management in Retailing completes the new trifecta of programs that offer laser-focused, practical training for leadership roles in burgeoning industries. On the executive side, the International Masters for Health Leadership program and the bilingual Executive MBA – offered in partnership with HEC Montreal – have propelled seasoned leaders to new heights since 2008. 

“Marcel recognized from the beginning that the best programs in the world would not succeed without the funding to attract and retain talented faculty members and students,” says Dean Yalovsky. A significant portion of the initial $22-million gift supported new hiring and the creation of faculty chairs and faculty scholar awards to reward existing faculty members for exceptional research and teaching.

On the student side, the 2011 gift supported the endowment of new financial awards at the BCom, masters, and doctoral levels. At the same time, the sizable expansion of the Faculty’s career services office in 2007 supported the effort to recruit new students and enhance student placement and employability. Its commitment to attracting talented students has paid off, particularly at the undergraduate level, where the BCom program has earned the distinction of being the most competitive program for admission at McGill.

While Dr. Desautels understood the importance of attracting and retaining top academic talent, he also knew that the physical spaces where students, faculty, and staff members would congregate needed just as much support.

“I remember doing a walk-through of the Faculty of Management’s facilities with Marcel back in 2005,” says Professor Masi. “After taking a look around, he told us that something had to be done to improve the quality and size of work and study areas if his gift was going to make a real difference.”

In 2014, Dr. Desautels donated an additional $5 million to provide seed funding to convert the building that once housed the McGill bookstore into a state-of-the-art academic building. Other major donors quickly followed his lead, and the University ultimately raised more than $17 million for the 48,666 sq. ft. expansion that now provides a permanent home for masters students at the Faculty.

Ushering in a new era

As the Desautels Faculty of Management continues to gain global recognition for its leading-edge research, world-class programs, and strong links to industry, the visionary support of Dr. Marcel Desautels will forever mark a turning point in the Faculty’s history.

In total, Dr. Desautels has given more than $38 million to the Desautels Faculty of Management since 2005. On the 10th anniversary of the original $22 million gift, McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier presented Dr. Desautels with the prestigious James McGill Keys to commemorate his monumental contributions to the Faculty. This year, the Faculty commemorated the 15th anniversary of the gift by commissioning an artist to paint a portrait of Marcel Desautels that will be hung in the Dean’s Office.

“The Desautels Faculty of Management owes much of its success to Marcel’s support,” reflects Principal Fortier. “His contributions continue to make a tremendous impact on the lives of countless students and faculty members, as well as having acted as a magnet for other gifts and helped to set the Faculty on a stable financial footing. Marcel’s gift was ground-breaking for management education at McGill.”