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Asteroids offer "pie in the sky" for astronomy student

October 20, 2011

Asteroids offer
Tyler August looks up to the skies, focusing his education and research in asteroids, thanks to support from the Wallace and Margaret McCain Ontario Graduate Scholarship.

Tyler August grew up amongst the blackened hills of Sudbury. His grandfather worked the mines and his father designs mining equipment. It isn’t any wonder that Tyler wants to be a miner. The difference is, he wants to mine the skies.

Tyler is pursuing his master’s degree in Astronomy and Planetary Science at Western. He is thankful for the Wallace and Margaret McCain Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) which he says has been vital to focusing on his studies and his dream.

When Margaret and the late Wallace McCain chose to donate $100,000 almost 10 years ago to Western’s endowment fund, they may not have realized how much of an impact it would make in less than a decade.

The income generated by the McCains’ Western endowment, together with the 2:1 Ontario Graduate Scholarship match from the government, has provided more than $100,000 to graduate students at Western – exceeding the amount originally endowed.

Nine graduate students, including Tyler, have benefitted since the first recipient was chosen in 2002-2003. The McCains’ sons, Michael (HBA'79) and Scott, say they are amazed that their parents’ donation has helped so many students in a significant way in such a short time.

“Our parents had always managed their money well,” says Scott McCain. “I am sure our father would have taken great pride in the fact that they made a wise investment in Western to help graduate students make strides in their research. It is wonderful to know that our parents’ generosity is making such an impact.”

Tyler agrees that private donations are essential to helping shape the knowledge economy. Without it, his dream of protecting the Earth wouldn’t have seemed possible. Tyler says we can get at the wealth of an asteroid in space, without it ever coming near any living beings. And he believes these asteroids hold both secrets of the distant past and promise of a shining future.

“With more and more people cutting slices of what we have on Earth, we need more pie. Pie in the sky may be the best hope we have.”

For more informatino on how a gift of $5,000 becomes a $15,000 award through the Ontario Graduate Scholarship matching program, contact Jan New, Executive Director, Faculties and Divisions at 519-661-2111, ext. 88458 or email

This article appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of Impact Western
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