Contact: Carrie Blewitt
Rebecca MacDonald Named 2009 International Horatio Alger Award Winner
Founder and Executive Chair of Energy Savings Group to be inducted in April in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2009 – The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans is pleased to announce Rebecca MacDonald as the 2009 International Horatio Alger Award Recipient for her determination in achieving success, despite her humble and stringent upbringing.
MacDonald, founder and Executive Chair of the Energy Savings Group based in Toronto, will be officially inducted as a Lifetime Horatio Alger Member April 3 in Washington, D.C. MacDonald will receive the International Horatio Alger Award, which is annually presented to a citizen of a country other than the United States who has overcome humble beginnings or adversity to achieve success and serve as an outstanding role model to the international community.
“Rebecca has demonstrated the qualities of hard work and perseverance and is self-taught – a true success story,” said David L. Sokol, president of the Horatio Alger Association. “She will be an excellent representation of our International Award in Canada.”
MacDonald was born in the former Yugoslavia in Sarajevo. When she was very young, she moved with her parents and sister to Belgrade, where her father worked for the government in developing energy resources, but the family had very modest means. They lived in an apartment with less than 500 square feet of living space. Her mother demanded nothing short of excellence from her daughter. MacDonald remembers a time when she brought home from school a 98 percent on a test. “My mother acted as if the world had come to an end,” she says. “From that point on, I made sure I earned only 100s.”
MacDonald had no freedoms as a child, including no friends or other social outlets. She was forced to practice the piano for six hours a day. Although as a teenager she became an accomplished pianist, she could not perform at a concert level, and her mother ended the music lessons and told her she would go into medicine. On the day MacDonald completed her medical degree, she decided to run away. She was 22. On her way home from her last day at school, she passed by the Canadian embassy and spontaneously requested that they accept her as an immigrant.
She had with her savings of a few hundred dollars, but could speak no English and knew no one in Canada. She tried to find a job where she could use her medical knowledge, but discovered that her lack of English and being a woman were insurmountable obstacles. She went to work as a secretary during the day and attended school at night to learn English. Four years later, she met and married Pearson MacDonald in 1979.
In 1989, MacDonald read that Canada was going to deregulate its energy industry. Viewing this as an once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity, she researched and learned the buying and selling of natural gas, and then formed Energy Marketing, Inc. Her company became one of the largest natural gas retailers in Ontario. Just as she made her first $1 million, her husband was killed in a tragic car accident. Devastated, she pledged that she would focus her attention on her two young children and her business. She sold a very successful EMI in 1995.
In 1997, MacDonald founded the Energy Savings Group, which has become one of North America’s largest suppliers of deregulated natural gas and electricity. Energy Savings has grown from a zero base start-up to sales of $1.7 billion and now supplies nearly one million customers in Canada and the United States. In 2001, she took her company public, and today Energy Savings has the largest market capitalization of any North American company founded and run by a woman.
In the midst of her business success, MacDonald was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Her doctors advised that she would be bedridden within a year. As with all her challenges, MacDonald fought back against the disease. Now in remission, she sought to help others with this debilitating disease and provided funds for the creation of the Rebecca MacDonald Centre of Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease wing at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
In addition to McDonald’s award, 10 other outstanding individuals who have accomplished remarkable achievements through hard work, self-reliance and perseverance, will receive the Horatio Alger Award, the U.S. version of the International award in April. They are:
- James S.C. Chao, chairman, Foremost Group
- David Foster, producer, composer and arranger, Reprise Records / 143 Records
- Clayton Paul Hilliard, president/owner, Badger Oil Corporation
- Michael G. Morris, chairman,President and CEO, American Electric Power
- Indra K. Nooyi, chairman and CEO, PepsiCo Inc.
- Carl H. Ricker, Jr., founder,chairman and CEO, Azalea Holdings; partner, Campus Crest Communities; chairman, Executive Comm. Capital Bank Corp;
- and cofounder and chairman, MXT Card Services, LLC
- Thomas Joseph Shannon, Jr., founder, T-Bird Restaurant Group, Inc.; and founder, Village Development Co.
- Denzel Washington, Academy Award winning actor and director
- Robert Lee Wright, chairman, FE Holdings, Inc.
- Stephen A. Wynn, chairman, Mirage Resorts, Inc.
The new members will be given their awards April 2 at the Horatio Alger Awards Induction Ceremonies. Activities include three days of meetings and celebrations in some of the nation’s most historic buildings. The Horatio Alger National Scholars, remarkable high school seniors, are also formally honored during the three-day gathering.There are five other International Horatio Alger Award Recipients from Canada: G. Wallace F. McCain, class of 2008; David E. Ritchie, class of 2006; Dominic D’Alessandro, class of 2005; Jim Pattison, class of 2004; and Wayne Gretzky, class of 2003.
There are five other International Horatio Alger Award Recipients from Canada: G. Wallace F. McCain, class of 2008; David E. Ritchie, class of 2006; Dominic D’Alessandro, class of 2005; Jim Pattison, class of 2004; and Wayne Gretzky, class of 2003.
A complete list of all of the Horatio Alger Members can be found at www.horatioalger.org/members.
About The Horatio Alger Association
Founded in 1947, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans continues to fulfill its mission of honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals in our society who have succeeded in spite of adversity and of encouraging young people to pursue their dreams through higher education. The Horatio Alger Association offers three annual scholarship programs: the National Scholarship Program and state scholarship programs, available to high school seniors in all 50 states, and the Horatio Alger Military Veterans Scholarship Program for U.S. veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. The association awards more than $10 million annually in college scholarships and has given over $63 million to deserving students since 1984. The association is a 2008 Combined Federal Campaign participant, ID# 77062. For more information about the scholarships, please visit www.horatioalger.org.