McGill University has lost a friend and a close ally of its Department of Translation Studies. Mary Elizabeth Coppin passed away in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts on July 18 and was laid to rest following a moving service at St. Andrew's Dominion Douglas Church on July 23.
Mrs. Coppin, the beloved wife of the late Frederick B. Coppin, had been active in translation circles since she served as Secretary of the Société des traducteurs du Québec, which eventually became the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec (OTTIAQ). It was in great part due to her pioneering efforts and unswerving devotion to the profession that Québec-based translators finally attained professional status under Québec law.
Her personal motto, "It's never too late to learn," set the tone for a life of service to the profession and explains her motivation in supporting students and apprentice translators to achieve their best.
She put in place a number of prizes designed to recognize excellence in translation studies. At McGill, the highly coveted Mary Coppin Prize in Translation was established in 1985 and ever since has been awarded annually to the graduating student with the highest standing in the English Option of the McGill Certificate in Translation.
In recognition of the importance of certification in the field, Mrs. Coppin also worked to establish the Mary Coppin Award, which was initially presented by OTTIAQ to those who obtained the highest marks on the certification exam given by the Canadian Translators and Interpreters Council (CTIC) in Canada's two official languages from 1990 on. Following the abolition of this exam in 1998, the Mary Coppin Award became the Mary-Coppin OTTIAQ Award in 2002. Universities with recognized translation programs nominate outstanding students for this award. This prize is now presented annually to the best translation student having graduated from a Québec university.
In a final act of generosity, Mrs. Coppin established two entrance scholarships in 2002, in the Faculty of Arts, for outstanding students entering a full-time undergraduate degree program. These scholarships are awarded based on the applicants' academic standing, leadership qualities and prior involvement in school activities.
It was not enough to recognize excellence. Mrs. Coppin also worked tirelessly in order to shape those programs which would help students achieve excellence. She was a stalwart of the Program Committee for the McGill Certificate in Translation as it evolved into a credit program, and she served as a founding member of the committee which put in place the Graduate Diploma in Translation. Scores of students have benefited from this groundwork, and graduates of both programs now have access to the professional designation of "traducteur agréé."
Education and professional certification were not Mrs. Coppin's sole concerns. She was also committed to solving terminological problems and ensuring that translators understood their social responsibilities in a bilingual and bicultural society. In many a meeting she expressed her concerns about the equitable "balance" between the English and French languages. Her preoccupation with a balanced approach to the profession and language also came through in her writing, and she held that translators "should avoid at all costs a too purist attitude."
Her friends and colleagues will miss Mary Coppin for her devotion to the profession and her unswerving support of students and young professionals.