Oxford University has received a gift of £75 million (approximately $120.2 million) from Canadian advertising billionaire and former Rhodes scholar John McCall MacBain in support of its Rhodes scholarship program, the Financial Times reports.
The gift includes a £25 million grant, £25 million to encourage and "match" other gifts to the program, and £25 million to expand the program to additional regions of the world. McCall MacBain told the FT that the gift is meant to shore up the Rhodes Trust, which has suffered serious losses and poor returns during the recent global economic crisis. The trust's finances also have been buffeted by increases in university fees and a rise in the number of scholars undertaking full doctorate courses.
Established in 1903 by the estate of British mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes, the trust annually grants eighty-three full postgraduate scholarships to students from Europe, the United States, and British Commonwealth countries. McCall MacBain's gift will expand the program to students in Brazil, China, Russia, Japan, and the Middle East. Other well known Rhodes scholars include former U.S. president Bill Clinton, former Canadian prime minister John Turner, and Australia's current prime minister, Tony Abbott.
While the gift is the largest single donation to the trust since the scholarship program was established more than a century ago, the name of the program will not be changed. Instead, McCall MacBain will be honored as a Second Century Founder of the Rhodes Trust. "The Rhodes scholars are such a distinctive brand, [my name] could only diminish that," he told the FT.
McCall MacBain built one of the world's largest classified advertising empires before selling it in 2006 for more than $2 billion. "I could never have afforded to go to Oxford at all if it wasn't for the Rhodes Scholarship," he said. "I'm trying through my good fortune in business to be able to give that back, to allow students access wherever in the world, to get the best students to come to Oxford."