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A woman on a mission

A woman on a mission

She’s young, she’s female, and she’s not at all shy about telling you why she got involved with Queen’s and why others should, too. Grant Hall Society Chair Katie Macmillan, Artsci’78, is a new breed of volunteer.
Katie MacmillanGrant Hall Society Chair Kate Macmillan

Katie (Mills) Macmillan, the new chair of the Grant Hall Society, is traveling the country drumming up support from alumni for their alma mater, encouraging them to get involved with Queen’s – as she did – even if it has been years since their time on campus. Katie is pleased to serve as a model volunteer and to help inspire people to give back to the University.

“It’s like anything in life. All you need sometimes is an example, somebody on whom you can focus, who can say, ‘It’s easy, it feels good and it’s so appreciated.’ It’s as simple as that,” she says.

For about a year now, the Economics grad has been heading up the Grant Hall Society, which is made up of donors who give Queen’s more than $1,000 in a single year. She feels that setting an example is among her responsibilities. “I’m putting a “face to the idea of philanthropy,” she says.

That face is a fresh, lively, and enthusiastic one, and it also represents a new and growing set of alumni leaders at Queen’s and at other Canadian universities – alumni volunteer leaders who are young and female.

Katie says she’s noticed the growing trend of more women philanthropists in recent years, and it’s something she hopes to see continue and grow.

We’re trying really hard to get more women involved, because they bring an important perspective.

“We have perhaps more financial means and more independence in our financial decision-making than would have been the case with our mothers. It’s great to see women getting involved” she says.

Institutions and groups are making special efforts to recruit women philanthropists and volunteers, but it’s not easy to do so, Katie admits.

“Women, especially younger women, have a lot of demands on their time. Our challenge is to make them realize how much we need them working for us.”

With a growing number of women in faculties that formerly were male-dominated, Katie wants to ensure their interests are represented during and after their time at Queen’s.

“We’re trying really hard to get more women involved, because they bring an important perspective,” she says. “We want to make sure that perspective is well reflected.”

But it’s not just women that Katie Macmillan is trying to engage. She’s reaching out to all alumni and asking them to work with her to help Queen’s stay at the forefront on the Canadian university scene.

“We have to step up to the plate, to get back into the mindset that Queen’s is a place we cared about and that was tremendously good to us,” says Katie, who works full-time as a consultant on international trade and economic policy.

She’s thoroughly enjoying her volunteer work with Queen’s and says she ­appreciates the opportunities it gives her to share her fond memories of Queen’s with fellow alumni and to meet future alumni who are now on campus.

After she graduated from Queen’s in 1978, Katie went on to pursue an MA in economics at the University of Alberta and a successful career that has included positions with the Canada West Foundation, the C.D. Howe Institute, and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. She was drawn back to the University when the eldest of her three sons followed in his parents’ footsteps. Katie’s husband, Graham Macmillan, is a 1978 MBA grad, but the couple did not meet in Kingston.

“We were so happy to be involved with Queen’s again,” she says, reflecting on the personal connection that having a child at the University has brought.

Katie and Graham, who live in the ­Ottawa suburb of Rockcliffe, had already been making financial contributions to Queen’s for several years, when their eldest son Thomas, Artsci’06, was a student. However, it was their middle son, James Macmillan, Artsci’07, who got Katie involved as a volunteer.

James was president of the Alma Mater Society in 2006-2007, and he convinced his mother to stand for the Board of Trustees in 2007. Not long after her election, she also agreed to serve as Grant Hall Society chair. She’s now working to expand the Society’s membership.

One of her strategies ­involves discovering what motivates donors. “It’s a matter of finding out what makes people happy and what gives them a sense of satisfaction,” says Katie.

[Queen's Alumni Review 2009-4 cover]