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Installation de la principale

le 10 mars 2003

Your Excellency, Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Colleagues, Dear Family and Friends - All.

I stand before you in this magnificent hall both humble and proud in the face of this remarkable institution that I have - with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all mystrength - undertaken to serve.

Here, on the threshold of becoming the 16th Principal of McGill University, I am filled with the deepest admiration for what has taken place in these chambers and on these grounds - for the history of human achievement that constitutes McGill.

En réponse à ce privilège, j'offre avec détermination et enthousiasme ma volonté de servir cette université et d'épauler de toutes les manières possibles ses professeurs, ses étudiants, les membres de son personnel, ses gouverneurs et ses anciens étudiants. La volonté de maintenir bien vivant l'esprit qui motivent leurs actions. La volonté, enfin, de travailler avec nos très nombreux et remarquables partenaires. C'est dans cet esprit que j'adresse tous mes remerciements aux personnes présentes ici aujourd'hui. Je remercie de leur accueil les dignes représentants de Montréal, et des gouvernements du Québec et du Canada.

I am also deeply touched by the warm wishes that so many of you bring from your renowned institutions and from our great university associations; and by the presence of Professor Graham Bell, and student Ali Shivji- who represent McGill's central purpose, and colleague Eyal Baruch representing our dedicated staff, … and so grateful to all of the colleagues and students of this remarkable university.

At the outset I would like to acknowledge an abiding debt of gratitude to Principals Bernard Shapiro and David Johnston for their exemplary and enduring leadership contributions and for their friendship. To Bernard and Phyllis Shapiro go also my special thanks not only for the legacy they have created, but for the warm and generous welcome that they have extended to my family and myself.

In addition, I owe a debt to the thirteen principals who preceded David Johnston and Bernard Shapiro, including, among others - Principals Dawson, Currie, James, Robertson and Bell. On the strength of these fifteen prior Principals, and our founder, James McGill, the shape of this University has emerged solid, with deep roots and tall aspirations.

I know you will permit me also to offer a special word of gratitude to our Governor General -McGill's Visitor - for honouring us with her participation here today, and for her inspiring public service to our national and international community and for the friendship and support that she has already extended to me. Thank you, Madame la Gouverneure Générale.

Jour de célébration de l'université McGill, cette journée est aussi un hommage au savoir, à l'instruction et à l'épanouissement humain.

With this in mind, I want to recognize, as well, my own teachers, mentors, family and friends - not all of whom can be with us today. Each of you has made a profound contribution to the growth of my understanding of our world - contributions that resonate inside of me every single day. You have nurtured my perspective. You have brought me to this moment. You have my deepest thanks. And from this moment on, I also look to my new community, the McGill community, to enrich my perspective.

Il n'existe pas dans le monde d'aujourd'hui de plus belle cause que celle de l'enseignement supérieur. La découverte et l'enrichissement des connaissances, la transformation et l'application du savoir et des idées constituent les pierres angulaires de notre civilisation. Jamais encore l'enseignement supérieur n'a eu autant d'importance pour notre société qu'aujourd'hui. Jamais encore il n'a été aussi essentiel pour les citoyens du Québec et du Canada.

Universities fuel our social, cultural and economic institutions and they help design the shape of our communities. Universities promote the free exchange of ideas and encourage open and meaningful debate. The health of democratic society, our society, depends on that debate and exchange. Universities wrestle with our most difficult problems, and formulate solutions to dilemmas across the spectrum of human activity: Who controls the media? How do we sustain a life-giving environment? What is the role of the free market? How can we cure cancer?

Universities have become the defining institutions of modern life - because universities devote themselves to finding deeper definitions, deeper meanings, and deeper resolutions.

It has been said that the pleasures of life are arranged on an ascending scale. As I stand here today, this is how I feel. I believe that there can be no greater happiness than to be called upon to serve a cause for which you care passionately, and into which you can pour all of your energy and any talent you may possess. This is my lucky fate. But it is not only mine. It is the fate of all who serve universities.

And to serve a university of the stature of McGill is a calling of the highest order. As we all participate here today in the installation of a new Principal for McGill, we engage in a rite of passage that is older than Canada itself. We stand in the river of history and we look to the shore that we call the future.

Knowing our history, as our colleague and esteemed historian Stanley Frost - with us here today at age ninety - will agree, is important. McGill, and Montreal, hand in hand, have been at the heart of the building of Quebec and Canada. The majority of these builders were educated at McGill, and oversaw its growth, as they did the growth of Montreal and beyond, across Quebec and our entire country.

To quote McGill graduate, John Ralston Saul, those who study at McGill do so "… in a city conceived by a sea of writers in two languages… and more than that, a city that was and is, more than anywhere else the city which conceived of Canada. Cartier did walk within a few metres of this hall. Champlain, a short distance from here, paddled off up the St. Lawrence to open the centre of the country… George-Etienne Cartier… did conceive of a federation which would stretch to the Pacific… and, Laurier did … win over Francophones and Anglophones… [alike] … to his idea of reconciliation." Today and into the future, McGill and Montreal reflect a multilingualism, a multiculturalism, a tolerance and integrated experience of life that are the envy of the world.

The wisdom of Wilfrid Laurier's advice, delivered in his valedictory speech at the McGill Law Convocation of 1864, rings even truer today than it did then:

"Liberté, n'est pas le pouvoir de tout dire et de tout faire; la liberté c'est le droit d'agir et de se mouvoir à l'aise sans entrave dans le cercle de la constitution tracée par le peuple, sans que ce cercle puisse être élargi où rétréci à volonté par une main despotique."

"Freedom [he said] is not the power to say or do whatever you like: freedom is the right to act and move with ease, at liberty within the circle of the constitution traced by the people, a circle which cannot be stretched or diminished at will by a tyrant's hand."

And McGill's progress, since its founding 182 years ago, like the progress of our nation, has resisted many challenges, including challenges to its fundamental freedoms. And McGill overcame these obstacles.

This hard-won progress, as David Johnston noted in his installation speech of 1980 confirms the prophetic vision of McGill's founders who claimed for McGill the motto ,"Grandescunt Aucta Labore"… "By hard work, all things increase and grow." Today this mantra rings true in the lives of each and every one of us - "by hard work, all things increase and grow."

The Roddick Gates at the main entrance to McGill's downtown campus represent an interesting metaphor for the intersection of our past and future: The past - in that these gates were presented in memory of one of Canada's most distinguished deans of medicine, McGill's Sir Thomas Roddick, by his widow, Lady Amy Redpath Roddick; And the future - in that the structure of the gates themselves expresses a welcome - arms open to the community, to the students, to change, and to the prospect of a better life unfolding before us.

Permettez moi de vous rappeler aujourd'hui quelques uns des traits les plus remarquables de McGill.

First among McGill's strengths is our unwavering commitment to excellence, and our willingness to be judged by the highest standards in the world. And by these standards, we do better than any clear-headed statistician could possibly expect. Year after year, McGill's students and faculty excel, and contribute, and succeed disproportionately to our size and our resources. If we were prize-fighters, it would be said that we "punch above our weight". Our astonishingly bright students win more national awards, international awards, and Rhodes scholarships than any other university in this country.

I will now ask our student guests who repesent McGill's highest undergraduate honours — the Greville Smith Scholarship winners, the Blouin-MacBain Scholarship winners, and the Canadian Merit Scholarship winners — to stand and be recognized on behalf of themselves and their award-winning peers who were not all invited because if they were, there wouldn't be any room for the rest of us.

McGill has produced a disproportionate number of Cabinet Ministers, Supreme Court justices, Nobel Prize winners, Oscar winners, world-famous musicians, authors, and designers. Twelve current Canadian university presidents are McGill graduates. Quebec's first female cabinet minister, Claire Kirkland Casgrain. Architect Moshe Safdie. World-famous poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen. Charles Taylor. Sophie Durocher. Anne Cormier. We punch above our weight. Nobel Prize winners David Hubel, Rudolph Marcus, Andrew Schally and Val Fitch. Olympian Kim Saint-Pierre. Education Minister Sylvain Simard. Macdonald's ground-breaking environmental engineer Chandra Madramootoo. Management guru Henry Mintzberg. Sir William Osler. Astronaut Julie Payette. Burt Bacharach!

La liste est longue, à tel point que partout dans le monde, McGill est reconnue comme un trésor canadien. Toutes ces personnes talentueuses sont d'anciens étudiants de l'université McGill. Ils servent d'exemple aux étudiants d'aujourd'hui par la richesse et la variété des domaines où ils peuvent se distinguer.

Punching above our weight. An enviable international profile with a distinctive international impact. This was well demonstrated in the Newsweek and Princeton Review rankings of last summer, both of which ranked McGill as the only non-American university in the top fifteen of their lists.

A wonderful downtown campus in a stunning location, (so stunning that the Maclean's guide book to universities and colleges sets up against the many pros of attending McGill, the one con that because it is in Montreal it is actually a place that your parents will want to visit). And another beautiful campus, the Macdonald campus, at the western end of the island.

Des programmes universitaires diversifiés et novateurs, et une autorité bien établie dans de nombreux domaines de recherche et d'érudition.

Punching above our weight. McGill is exceptionally research-intensive, attracting a disproportionately high share of competitively allocated research funding per faculty member. McGill's students and faculty and its research and scholarly programs are international in stature and are linked into outstanding international academic networks. And their achievements are supported by dedicated and loyal staff, alumni, and friends.

How have we achieved this international quality and reputation? Is it in the air? In the water? Who knows? It is as though the "Spirit of Excellence" that permeates the institution takes possession of the people who pass through our Roddick gates.

But there are a few things we do know…

McGill est le fruit de Montréal, du Québec, du Canada et du monde entier.

McGill existe pour Montréal, pour le Québec, pour le Canada et pour le monde entier.

McGill benefits from and makes a profound contribution to each of these communities.

And as our strengths have come to the surface, we have built on them in strong collaboration with key partners and great friends.

Des partenariats conclus avec nos consœurs et des instituts de recherche, avec les gouvernements du Québec et du Canada et leurs conseils de recherche et programmes d'innovation avant-gardistes, avec la Ville de Montréal, avec des organisations non gouvernementales, des personnalités éclairées du secteur privé et des personnes exceptionnelles, ici et ailleurs dans le monde.

The McGill community is committed to continuing a spectacular record of achievement, overcoming the limitations that might hold others back. We are committed to realizing our highest aspirations, and to expanding our distinctive contributions. This means taking on a number of specific challenges…

We must increase the quality and innovation of our undergraduate education programs by achieving a better balance of class sizes and by giving our undergraduates more of the one thing for which there is no substitute - direct contact with brilliant professors. Furthermore, we must give our undergraduates broad and uniform access to a research experience so that they realize the unique benefits of a superb research-teaching interface. Surely this is a special mission and responsibility of the research intensive university.

We must renew our faculty, in a global hunt for new talent, by recruiting an average of 100 new faculty members per year over the next decade. These recruits will represent the finest minds in their fields, worldwide.

We must renew and sustain our magnificent campus and more than fifty patrimonial buildings to preserve our heritage while creating a modern infrastructure worthy of our mission - infrastructure that will enhance our teaching and scholarly work and create technological distinctiveness in key areas of academic strength.

We must further grow our internationally-respected cross-disciplinary research and teaching programs while preserving a deep strength in key core disciplines in the social sciences, the humanities, the life sciences and the physical sciences and engineering.

We will lead in developing distinctive new Canadian and international research and scholarly networks and clusters in areas of promise, building on our existing interdisciplinary collaborations.

We will refine further our governance processes, and build strong, uniform and effective engagement of our faculty, students and staff in governance of this institution.

We will continue to reduce bureaucracy and strive for effective, highly service-oriented administration at all levels of the University.

Nous inscrirons l'épanouissement personnel de chacun des membres de notre communauté au nombre de nos priorités. Nous ferons en sorte que chacun comprenne la nécessité du mentorat et les bienfaits, pour tous, le désir se réaliser et de réussir, sur le plan personnel et professionnel.

McGill is blessed with a dedicated community of faculty and staff, and like every student, every member of our community should have the opportunity to be mentored and to grow.

As a means to realizing our academic aspiration, and not an end, we must achieve an effective, stable base of support in core funding, a well diversified resource base and strong growth in our endowment in order to compete with the best worldwide in supporting our students and our faculty.

Ces dernières années, les gouvernements du Québec et du Canada ont très largement contribué au développement du système universitaire et de la recherche universitaire, et nous leur en sommes infiniment reconnaissants. Néanmoins, nous devons ensemble nous efforcer de parvenir à des niveaux efficaces de financement et de ressources pour maintenir et augmenter notre compétitivité internationale.

We commit ourselves to rigorous multiyear academic planning, and in so doing we must depend on a stable, effective, transparent base of public support.

L'édification d'un Québec fort et compétitif est une ambition à laquelle McGill souscrit avec détermination. Nous attendons du Québec qu'il témoigne concrètement de sa fierté pour McGill, comme il le fait dans le cas d'autres institutions universitaires.

We undertake to provide regular reports on our progress; to aggressively publicize the many contributions that McGill makes to the social, economic, scientific and cultural advancement of Montreal, Quebec and Canada and through this to bring greater profile in the international realm to the wonderful communities that we serve.

These are not modest ambitions but with sustained effort and our aspirations high, they are within our reach.

McGill has overcome much in its 182 years and has emerged as an institution of higher learning and research with distinguished international stature. We intend to realize fully our aspirations, making our foundation more solid, and with even deeper roots and far-reaching branches.

McGill peut encore étendre son rayonnement. Et elle y parviendra. Les enjeux sont considérables mais nous disposons pour atteindre ce but d'intelligence créatrice, de partenaires fiables, de communautés uniques, d'un cadre magnifique et d'un esprit qui aspire sans cesse à s'élever, toujours plus haut, toujours plus loin.

Still, it can be, and will be stronger. The challenges are great, but we are armed with the most powerful weapons in the history of civilization - creative human intelligence, wonderful partners, special communities, the inspirational beauty that surrounds us, and spirits that reach higher and higher, ever upwards.

On this day, with each of you as a witness, I commit myself to McGill. Every person here, and the many more that you represent, are important to this great university, and to me.

C'est en unissant nos forces pour la plus grande des causes (celle de l'amour du savoir et de la connaissance et du désir d'innover) que McGill réussira. Comme avant, nous ferons venir dans cette ville captivante les esprits les plus brillants de la planète. Leurs découvertes, leurs idées, leur enseignement et les services qu'ils rendront enrichiront Montréal, le Québec, le Canada et l'humanité toute entière.

In closing I quote the beginning of the Book of Proverbs:

To know wisdom and instruction;
To comprehend the words of understanding;
To receive the discipline of wisdom;
The discipline of justice, and right and equity;
To teach the uneducated person to look ahead;
To teach the young person wisdom, and discretion;
That, growing wise, they begin to hear, and increase in learning, and become people of understanding who gather around themselves wise counsels;
To understand the meaning of a proverb;
To understand the meaning of a number;
To study the words of the wise until you can take their dark sayings and fill them with light;
To grasp the idea of the Eternal…
This is the beginning of knowledge.

En ce jour, nous célébrons l'esprit exceptionnel de notre université. C'est aujourd'hui, que nous amorçons ensemble un nouveau chapitre dans l'histoire de McGill.

Today, together at McGill.

Thank you.

Heather Munroe-Blum

March 10, 2003