James G. Wright (1942-2007)

Founding Executive Director
Sauvé Scholars Program

“Jim will be remembered by all of us who knew him with enormous respect and genuine affection. He loved his work with the Sauvé Scholars — both the program, which he helped found, and the Scholars themselves. Every year, as a new group of young people arrived from around the world — Saguenay and Sierra Leone, Bhutan, Pakistan and Regina — Jim marvelled at the wealth of talent, insight, experience and commitment in the latest group of Scholars.”

 

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These words of tribute to Jim, as he was known to his friends and admirers around the world, including his cherished Sauvé Scholars, are indeed an apt summary of the last years of his life. Jim had a distinguished career as a lawyer and proactive member of the McGill and Montreal communities. But he gave his heart to the Sauvé Scholars and was rewarded with the abiding affection of all who came into contact with him in his role of Executive Director.

Following his graduation from McGill with a BA in 1965, Jim pursued his Law studies at the Université Laval in Québec City. He then joined the Montreal law firm of Martineau Walker (now Fasken Martineau) where he practiced corporate and real estate law for some 30 years. In 1977, he became Deputy Director of the Compliance Branch of the Foreign Investment Review Agency of Canada, where he remained for two years.

In 1999, he left Martineau Walker to devote himself to community work, becoming Executive Director of EPOC Montreal, an organization that provides job training for disadvantaged young adults.

Throughout his life, Jim gave of himself to his various communities. He served on many boards including those of the Douglas Hospital, Weston School and the Montreal Bar Association and was an elected member of Council in the City of Westmount for eight years. In recognition of his outstanding service as the Honorary Counsel for Finland at Montreal, that country honoured him by designating him a Knight, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland. But above all, it was his devotion to McGill University that was legendary. For many years he served as a director and officer of the Graduate Society (now the McGill Alumni Association), and was its President from 1992-93. Later, he was a member of the McGill Board of Governors for nine years serving for much of that time on its Executive Committee. He was subsequently named a Governor Emeritus in recognition of his exceptional service and commitment to the University.

When, in 2003, he was chosen to be the first Executive Director of the Sauvé Scholars Foundation, he brought with him this impressive background along with his notable traits of tenacity and humour. Most important of all, he threw himself into the fledgling program with his characteristic enthusiasm and with a great respect for the talented young people whom he would support throughout their stay at Sauvé House.

His role of Executive Director was multi-faceted: a combination of advocate for the Scholars vis-à-vis the University and other authorities, organizer of educational, cultural and social outings, cheer leader, house master, guidance counsellor and sympathetic listener. Jim, “the gentle giant”, was all of those things and more. He and his wife Nancy Wright welcomed the Scholars into their homes in the city and country, making sure that every holiday was duly celebrated and that no one was alone during festive periods. In return, the Scholars nicknamed him “Abu” and regarded him as a combination of Canadian parent, sage, excellent listener, advisor, biggest fan and sometime miracle-worker.

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