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It was, as those who know him might say, a classic "Wallace
moment" -- enthusiastic, restless, generous, and impatient --
all the qualities that made him, in life, one of Canada's truly
great businessmen and profoundly influential benefactors.
Indeed, of all the tributes given him during the days following his
death, at 81, last spring, none addressed his boundless drive better
than the eulogy delivered by his friend Frank McKenna.
"The Wallace McCains of the world are the oil wells of our
future," said the former premier of new Brunswick and Canadi-
an ambassador to the United States. "With the sweat of his brow
and the courage in his heart, he and his family single-handedly
transformed a large part of new Brunswick. He proved that there's
nothing as indomitable as the human spirit. Failure is not pre-
ordained. Self-pity is not a strategy. Large cities and wealthy coun-
tries do not have a monopoly on a strong work ethic or entrepre-
neurial drive. A few more Wallace McCains and we'd be sending
equalization payments to Alberta."
The remark drew smiles and knowing nods, as did another
anecdote told by McKenna, which reminded everyone of McCain at
his wise-cracking best: "When a rather abstemious friend of his died,
Wallace said, `He had a rather dull life. He didn't drink, didn't smoke,
didn't chew.'"
It is safe to say McCain managed to do all three at various times
in his long and rich life -- sometimes simultaneously. But his
biggest passion was not the pursuit of fleshy pleasures. It was not
the rewards of industry that motivated him. It was industry
itself -- the idea of creating something where nothing before
existed. The notion of building human potential animated his
days and nights. And, during the last decade of his life, this
determination found perfect expression in his tangible generosity
towards Mount Allison, from which he graduated with a BSc in 1952
and received an honorary doctorate in 1974. This was where, he was
fond of saying, he became a man.
"In his later years, he talked about Mount Allison quite a bit," says
his friend, business associate, and former Chancellor of Mount
Allison John Bragg. "He had looked after his own family and
14 / Fall 2011 / RECORD
Wallace (right) with his brother Harrison at
the site of the Florenceville factory, 1956
Opening-day tour: Wallace explains the packing
area to Minister Gregg (centre), 1957
Wallace and Harrison McCain, 1972
Wallace and Harrison McCain at the Florenceville plant, 1970