Alumni Profile: John Ellis '32

Businessman & Philanthropist

John Ellis ’32 had a distinguished career both as a businessman and philanthropist. Proud to have been educated at Lower Canada College, he embraced its motto Non Nobis Solum throughout his lifetime. In the 1960s, he was a member of The Fosbery Society—LCC’s legacy giving program—and LCC's Board of Governors, as well as a member of the first university senate of Simon Fraser University where he established a bursary. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1983 and, in 1989, John received Japan's Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of his commitment to the development of Canadian and Japanese relations. In 2012, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. 

Professionally, John served as vice chairman and director at the Bank of Montreal, having started his career as a bank teller earning $28 a month. His long relationship with the bank was interrupted briefly when John enlisted in Le Regiment de Maisonneuve and was posted in England where he rose to the rank of major, with decorations. It was there that he met and married, Joan Wilson. 

John was a man of integrity and, in some ways, ahead of his time. In the 1950s he appointed the first woman to a management role at the bank and, in the 1960s, promoted women’s membership at the Vancouver Club.

Though John retired from the Bank of Montreal in 1975 he did not stop working, serving on many boards of charitable organizations while pursuing his numerous interests, including fishing, gardening and bridge. And, at the age of 100, he wrote a semi-autobiography, Life, Love and Laughter

John remained a staunch supporter of the school he clearly held dear. “My dad loved LCC and considered his education at and connection with Lower Canada College to be transformative in his life,” says his son Robert Ellis ’67. 

LCC Alumni Association Ambassador, Vic Badian '61, adds: " John's undying interest in the school was unique. His thoughtful and eloquent video address to the entire student body in 2009 in honour of LCC's centenary celebration was a very special moment in LCC history."

Today, thanks to John’s generosity with the creation of the John Ellis '32 bursary, generations of deserving students will have the opportunity to benefit from everything LCC has to offer.

John passed away peacefully in January 2020, at the age of 104. He was LCC's oldest living alumnus and is survived by his three children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.