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Getting a second chance

‘Plain, simple help’ allowed Kevin LaRoche to finish McGill Law

McGill Law hooded sweatshirt

Kevin LaRoche, LLB’85, was still in his first semester as a McGill Law student when he found himself in the Dean’s office.

The reason? “My funding had disappeared, and it was clear to me that I would have to make my way back home to Saskatchewan,” says LaRoche. “In fact, there was barely enough money for that.”

So LaRoche went to Dean John E.C. Brierley, BCL’59, explained his situation, and declared his intention to drop out.

“He looked at me for a few moments. Glanced at a file, which I presume was mine. Then he picked up a piece of paper and wrote a note. He folded it in half twice, then wrote a number on it. He handed it to me, and then without saying anything else, told me to take it across the street to that room number.”

LaRoche did as instructed. “If memory serves, it was the bursar’s office.” He handed the note to the woman at reception, and she soon returned with a cheque. “It was made out to me, and if I recall correctly, it was for $2,500. In any event, it was enough to cover the semester.”

“No loans. No paper. No signature. Just plain, simple help,” he recalls. “That meant a lot to me.”

That vivid memory is the inspiration behind LaRoche’s decision to leave a bequest to McGill Law. He has stipulated that his gift provide student financial support through the Dean’s discretionary fund.

“It’s a contribution to the same discretionary fund from which I think I benefited 35 years ago,” says LaRoche. “It is a way of giving future Deans the discretion they need and require to help students, without undue bureaucracy, or for situations that don’t quite ‘fit’.”

After overcoming that early first hurdle, McGill Law was fruitful for LaRoche. It’s where he met his wife, Lise Marie Chassé, LLB’85, “the smartest person in Professor Crepeau’s Obligations class.” It’s where his law career began – he is now Partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, and a recognized expert in intellectual property litigation. And it’s still the source of fond memories. “It was a wonderful two years in a tremendous school, at a time when everything was possible. Lise and I both hope that it’s that way for students today.”

His bequest came about simply because “Being a McGill graduate means a lot to me. And it’s important to pay things forward. McGill supported me. I will support McGill.”

His gift means that “students who find themselves in difficult circumstances will be able to go to their Dean for help. And she or he will be able to give it, then and there, in the same way that Dean Brierley and the lovely woman in the bursar’s office helped me.”

“This is not a massive bequest,” says LaRoche. “They will not be naming a building after me, or even a room. But there are not many McGill lawyers who, when settling their estate, can’t donate to their alma mater – especially one as unique as McGill. I encourage them to do the same.”

What will your legacy be? Learn more about legacy giving.