Effective approaches to better safeguard lives and property

Impact of Annual Giving 2014


Good firefighters, like good teachers, are constantly improving strategies to stay at the top of their game.

Gordon Routley, BEng’72 (Civil), understands these two callings better than most, and he is doing his utmost to ensure that future generations benefit from advances in both education and public safety.

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North American firefighters are a close-knit community. Gordon Routley lost 14 friends and associates when New York City’s Twin Towers collapsed on Nine-Eleven. He is pictured here in the computerized control room at Montreal fire headquarters. His McGill Engineering degree laid the foundation for a firefighting career that is still helping to save lives. (Photo: Owen Egan)

One of North America’s leading firefighting experts, Routley spent several decades helping fire departments across the continent adopt new thinking and more effective approaches to better safeguard lives and property.

Wherever he worked, though, from Arizona to Louisiana to Maryland, Routley always kept tabs on McGill and took the time to stay in touch. In fact, he’s been donating to the Alma Mater Fund for the past 42 years, gradually increasing his annual contributions to the level of a Leadership Gift.

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New and ever-evolving construction materials are forcing firefighters to devise new methods to attack blazes fed by plastics and chemically-based substances. Routley says we’ve come a long way since Montrealers sounded the alarm using fire boxes attached to Hydro poles. (Photo: Owen Egan)

“I realized over time that graduates like me have to do something that has real meaning for current and future students. That’s why I send a cheque in every year. By working together as a team we can ensure that future generations benefit the way my classmates and I did from a top-notch education.”

Now back in Montreal, Routley is a Division Chief with the Montreal Fire Department, advising the high command on everything from firefighter safety, standards and performance, to equipment purchases (from fire trucks to walkie-talkies) and where to locate fire stations.

Inspire others to do their bit

Throughout his career―both as a front-line firefighter and a consultant―Routley has come to appreciate true teamwork.

“Any way you slice it, the centrepiece of effective firefighting is mutual support. Successful outcomes start with the character and determination of our first responders, but they also involve impeccable training, top-of-the-line equipment, supportive supervisors and long-term, detailed planning.

“That same philosophy applies to a successful Faculty like McGill Engineering,” he says. “Mutual support means that everybody in the family―including and especially alumni, both young and old―have to be part of the team; they have to play a meaningful role.”

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Building construction and systems engineering techniques that alumnus Gordon Routley studied at McGill later helped him earn a degree in fire engineering from the University of Maryland. (Photo: Owen Egan)

Routley has first-hand knowledge of four universities: Arizona State (where he earned his master’s in Public Administration), the University of Maryland, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and McGill.

“All are top schools, but the funding that McGill receives is unbelievably low in comparison to these other universities. Despite this, the McGill name carries an awful lot of weight―anywhere you go―and alumni annual gifts are a key part of how McGill Engineering maintains this reputation for excellence.

“I guess that’s why I agreed to give you this interview,” he says. “If my story helps in some small way to inspire others to do their bit to keep McGill healthy, so much the better.”

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