McWilliams Family Establishes Graduate Student Fund

Note: This article was written in mid-June. Jim McWilliams passed away on September 7th. The Faculty sends condolences to the McWilliams family and Jim’s many friends and colleagues.

A family with 75 years of forestry experience in British Columbia has established a $50,000 fund to support graduate students studying silviculture, forest policy, or inventories and growth and yield issues in British Columbia.

The McWilliams Family Forest Resource Management Graduate Student Enrichment Fund will enable students in thesis-based masters programs or PhD studies to participate in North American conferences that are appropriate to their field of study. The Fund can also cover the publication fees associated with publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

“As a family, we are very proud to make this contribution to UBC,” Jeff McWilliams (BSF 1985) says. “Three generations of my family have been involved in one aspect or another of forest management, and we want to
encourage graduate students to continue research and work in this field.”

Jeff’s wife Eleanor McWilliams (BSF 1984) agrees. “Jeff and I know firsthand how important conferences can be – for learning and sharing, and also for networking,” she says. “We want to help graduate students make the most of these experiences.”

The McWilliams family has focused this Fund on students doing research
in areas where they feel great opportunities exist for improving sustainable forest management. This conviction comes from decades of family experience.

Jeff ’s grandfather Harold McWilliams was the first head of the Reforestation Division of the BC Forest Service, established in 1946. Harold later became the Director of Parks and Deputy Minister of the BC Department of Recreation and Conservation from 1957 to 1971. He also served as the fourth President of the Association of BC Forest Professionals, 1951-52.

Jeff’s father Jim graduated from UBC with a BSF in 1953, and received a Rhodes scholarship that allowed him to study at Oxford University for three more years. On his return to British Columbia Jim launched a multifaceted forest products manufacturing career that took him all over the province

“I started at Western Plywood, and managed their mill at 100 Mile House for a couple of years,” Jim says. “Then I worked for Canfor in Vancouver, then I was in Chetwynd, then back to Vancouver at the Eburne Sawmill, then at the McDonald cedar mill in Fort Langley.” Jim also served as a member of the UBC Senate from 1976 to 1984.

Along the way Jim met his wife Barbara through friends and family, and together they raised Jeff and his two sisters. Barbara had a long career in public health nursing: she received a BSc Nursing from UBC in 1957 and returned there for a MSc Nursing in 1981.

After a long, successful managerial career, Jim worked for several years as a consultant with the forest industry, which gave him an even broader perspective on developing forestry and manufacturing issues and technologies.

Jim’s son Jeff was very much aware of the family tradition. “As I got older, I wanted to go into forestry on my own – I wasn’t pushed,” Jeff says. “However once I graduated my dad did have some advice. He told me that my grandfather (Harold) had worked for the provincial government his entire career, and that he (Jim) had done the same for the industry. He said that I should try to end up working for myself.”

Jeff has consulted with B.A. Blackwell and Associates for over 26 years, working on multidisciplinary silviculture and strategic forest management projects with both industry and government clients.

Jeff’s wife Eleanor received a BSF from UBC in 1984, and she also holds a Masters degree in forest biometrics from the University of Minnesota. Working as an independent consultant, she provides quantitative and financial analysis for a wide variety of clients.

Jim sums up the family’s motivation for creating this Fund: “We want to
support improvement in the foundations of forest management,” he says. “And we hope to make an impact with this gift.”

To remember Jim McWilliams and make a lasting contribution to Forestry graduate students, please consider a donation to the McWilliams family fund. You can make a gift online or contact Emma Tully at or 604.822.8716 for more information.

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