Canada billionaire funds Rhodes scholarships for China, Russia

Thu Sep 19, 2013 11:55am EDT
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By Luisa Porritt

LONDON (Reuters) - Billionaire Canadian philanthropist John McCall MacBain has donated 75 million pounds ($120 million) to help expand Oxford University's prestigious Rhodes scholarship program to elite students from China, Russia and Brazil.

The century-old postgraduate award boasts a list of world leaders among its scholars including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, six Commonwealth prime ministers including Australia's newly appointed Tony Abbott, three Nobel Prize laureates and 18 Pulitzer Prize winners.

But the scholarship, set up in 1903 by the will of Cecil John Rhodes - founder of the southern African territory of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe - currently funds 83 selected students a year only from Commonwealth nations, the United States and Germany.

MacBain, who sold his advertising company Trader Classified Media for what Canadian media reports said was more than $2 billion in 2006, was himself a Rhodes scholar and said attending Oxford University was a highlight of his life.

He said he wanted to expand the scholarship program which has helped develop future leaders for over a century.

"I believe that, if he were alive today, Cecil Rhodes would want to help find the leaders of the future in countries such as China, Japan, Brazil and Russia," MacBain said in an email to Reuters.

"With this endowment, it is hoped that the Rhodes Trust will be able to do just that in the decade to come."

The donation, the largest since the program was founded, was announced as Oxford University celebrated the 110th anniversary of the scholarship.   Continued...