A global reach that embraces local
Ian MacNeily (’81)
Ian MacNeily (’81) is a global thinker who appreciates the importance of small and local. After earning an Economics degree from Acadia, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant while in Halifax before gaining international financial expertise with a major Canadian financial institution.
“I tend to think globally and understand a lot of the macro influences that affect our economies and day-to-day life, and what I learned at Acadia majoring in Economics has stood me in good stead as I progressed through my career,” he says. He is quick to add that his minor in History was also important.
“Acadia is a fantastic place to get an undergraduate degree. It promotes a lot of cross-fertilization of ideas because of its size and the intimacy of the campus. That’s really important, perhaps even more so today. You’re not specialized too quickly. And you get to associate with different people from different backgrounds and in different academic endeavours. The world needs a bit more of that. We need more creative generalists with critical thinking and interpersonal skills who can analyze and adapt quickly to change. I think Acadia fosters that.”
While working for BMO Nesbitt Burns, he became head of finance for their London and European offices. After nearly six years in London, he and his wife, Kellan, returned to Canada to settle in Toronto, where Ian was raised. There he became CFO of a number of companies in the mining and technology sectors. He now works as an independent consultant in financial leadership.
“We loved every minute of London, but if we’d waited much longer I’d have been more Anglified than Canadian from a work perspective,” he says. “We still have friends there, and my wife has family there, so we visit regularly.”
MacNeily’s family ties to Acadia go back nearly a century: “Through my dad’s mother’s family, a lot of the Eatons attended Acadia in the 1920s, 30s and maybe into the 40s.”
Since his own student days, MacNeily has remained a strong Acadia supporter. Besides being a member of the Campaign Cabinet, he was part of the 2006–08 Tides are Turning Campaign, which surpassed its $50 million goal. He also established the MacNeily Family Bursary in memory of his father, Murray MacNeily (’54), and his uncle, Jack MacNeily (’49, ’51). And, as all three of the male MacNeily alumni lived in Barrax (War Memorial House) and Willett House, his contribution to the Residence Room Naming campaign is recognized with their names in Barrax.
“When I was on campus, I learned something about a lot of things, because one roommate or friend might be taking engineering, another history, and another biology,” he says. “We may not see each other often, but when we do, it’s like we were always friends. That’s pretty special.”
Acadia taught MacNeily open mindedness and critical thinking, he adds. “The self-discovery and meeting new people were really good for me. That kind of experience is useful wherever you go in life – it builds your confidence.”
Given the competitive environment for post-secondary education, Acadia needs to continually reinvest to attract high-calibre students and faculty, MacNeily believes. “The world needs more Acadia. That’s why I want to support it and am supporting it again.”