From McMaster to MaRS
John R. Evans (1929–2016) ranks among the greatest Canadians of his generation, and yet his name is scarcely recognized beyond the professional circles in which he moved. Author Douglas Hunter (God’s Mercies, The Place of Stone, Beardmore) sets to rights that surprising anonymity with a biography that is at once personal and professional, drawing on extensive interviews with family, friends, and colleagues as well as archival records.
A cardiologist by training, and a Rhodes scholar with a PhD from Oxford, John Evans was a passionate Canadian and global citizen, a visionary who brought an entrepreneurial spirit to the pursuit of the greater public good. Self-deprecating, ever curious, a leader who never ceased seeking the opinions of others, John amassed a résumé of astonishing diversity and accomplishment, and left a legacy of achievements on which others could build.
At age thirty-five, John was the founding dean of the McMaster Medical School, which touched off a global revolution in how doctors are trained using a patient-centred, problem-solving approach. After six years as president of the University of Toronto, John’s activities expanded exponentially. He was the founding CEO of Allelix, Canada’s first biotechnology company. He became a leading figure in global public health, the founding director of a new division of the World Bank devoted to population, health, and nutrition, the first Canadian chair of the Rockefeller Foundation, the founding chair of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and chair of the Walter and Duncan Gordon charitable foundation, to name just a few of his many roles in advancing the quality of life, in Canada and internationally. He also became one of the most sought-after members and chairs of corporate boards in Canada. His crowning achievement, Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, was perhaps his most audacious personal gamble.
John’s life is a testament to the power of change, and delivers valuable lessons on mentorship, innovation, leadership, and public service.