By living with the ideals we hold close at HSC – Integrity, Respect, Community, Determination and Individuality – Michael G. DeGroote turned his life into one of prosperity and purpose. His drive to succeed and his passion for giving proved an unparalleled combination and one that has forever changed the lives of many across Hamilton.
Born on August 13, 1933 in Belgium, Mr. DeGroote emigrated to Canada with his family in 1948. At the age of 14, he left school to help out on his family’s farm in Langton, Ontario. It was there that he set in motion a career that would propel him as one of Canada’s leading business men. After purchasing his first truck at the age of 18, Mr. DeGroote soon found himself at the helm of a successful company. With a fleet of four trucks, he made his way to Elliot Lake in 1955, where he began hauling uranium ore. Soon after, he purchased Laidlaw Transport, a small trucking business that he would eventually grow into one of the largest trucking and bussing operators in North America. Over the years, Mr. DeGroote acquired more than 400 companies under the Laidlaw name before selling the company in 1988 to Canadian Pacific.
In the years following his leadership of Laidlaw, Mr. DeGroote found great reward in many successful ventures including AutoNation and Century Business Services. His drive to lead in business echoed out to his philanthropic endeavours, where he made multiple groundbreaking contributions, including historic donations to Hamilton’s most prestigious educational institutions: McMaster University and Hillfield Strathallan College.
Mr. DeGroote’s commitment to support HSC’s Transformation Project brought his overall gift to $19.5 million, the largest donation ever made to an independent school in Canada. For more than 40 years, Mr. DeGroote and the DeGroote family have been instrumental in bringing state-of-the-art facilities to life at HSC – including the DeGroote Gym, our Athletics Complex, the Senior School, Artsplex and Community Centre as well as the Montessori school.
Mr. DeGroote’s dedication to HSC went above and beyond being a major donor. He also gave much of his time and wisdom to the College over the years, serving on the Board of Governors, the Building, Education and Transportation committees as well as being named an HSC Patron in 1981. Without his help HSC would not be the superior learning institution that it is today.
Though he left school as a teenager, Mr. DeGroote was a life-long learner who some might say was a graduate of the most fundamental kind of self-directed learning. He made it a priority to give in ways that would enhance education for generations to come and this commitment earned him honorary degrees from HSC and McMaster University. In 1990, in recognition of his generosity and impact on Canadians, Mr. DeGroote was named Officer of the Order of Canada – the highest honour possible for a civilian.
The late Ray Siganski – good friend and fellow HSC donor – described Mr. DeGroote as a “very positive person” who, despite facing illness later in life, would always make everyone feel welcome and “equal”. His legacy will only be overshadowed by the size of his heart. An adored husband, father and grandfather, Mr. DeGroote was surrounded by love in his final days. He will live on with distinction in our community as instrumental to the transformation of our College. We will forever honour Mr. DeGroote’s memory with each student who passes through the halls of HSC – a campus redefined thanks to the generosity, stewardship and passion of the late, great, Michael G. Degroote.