J.W. McConnell Biography

Who Was J.W. McConnell?

J.W. McConnell (1877-1963), born to a poor Irish-Canadian immigrant farming family in Muskoka, Ontario, became one of his generation’s most prominent businessmen and philanthropists. With limited formal schooling, he set off to Toronto as a youth in search of opportunity.

From 1899 to 1907, he worked for the Standard Chemical Company, first as a salesman, and later establishing their Montreal office, selling bonds and shares in both North America and Europe, establishing relationships that would lead to his considerable financial success.

Sitting on the boards of many corporations, McConnell was involved in a wide range of business ventures, with significant interests in the Montreal Street Railway, the Canadian Light and Power Company, the St. Lawrence Sugar Refineries, and several newspapers, including the Montreal Star, of which he became owner and publisher.

During a lifetime of fundraising and philanthropy, McConnell was recognized as a tireless, formidable figure and a key fundraiser for the YMCA, the war efforts for both World Wars, Montreal hospitals and McGill University, where he served as governor for nearly three decades. 

Believing that success derives from positive and constructive action rather than from title, position or rhetoric, he established what would become The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in 1937, making it one of the earliest foundations in Canada and still a leading national funder.

Today, the Foundation carries on McConnell’s vision by supporting outstanding organizations working to tackle persistent social problems through community involvement, innovative thinking and a clear commitment to building a stronger, more resilient Canada.

Read the full biography

For more information, please see William Fong’s
J.W. McConnell: Financier, Philanthropist, Patriot

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation 1002 Sherbrooke W., Suite 1800, Montreal, Québec H3A 3L6