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It was a who's who of the Montreal business crowd as students from the Desautels Faculty of Management hosted alumni, corporate leaders and prominent personages from McGill at the Ritz on February 3. The occasion was the 26th annual McGill Management Achievement Awards which served up a tasty lunch and recognition to four business people who have been models for success both on the balance sheet and in Canadian society.
Canada's auditor general and McGill B.Comm Sheila Fraser was among the award recipients. Crisp and composed, Fraser reflected on a long career in which she has been a partner at Ernst and Young, a top civil servant and a star of the Gomery Inquiry.
"Today I have a very public role as auditor general that I never expected - one that has led to experiences and challenges I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams. In fact, I like to say that I'm a prime example of what can happen when you don't plan your career!"
The speech, directed primarily at the students in the room, also evinced Fraser's belief in hard work and humility. Her words touched on the importance of areas of competence and an ethos of service, and were as precise and no-nonsense as, well, a chief accountant.
But later Fraser flashed something of a fun streak. Speaking with the Reporter, she recalled her time as an undergraduate at McGill when she and her friends enjoyed late hours on Crescent Street when Sherbrooke was all row houses ("Oh no, I'm dating myself!").
The event also honoured three executives who have managed to fuse success in the business word with a commitment to social improvement. Among them were the CEO of Chubb Insurance Canada, Ellen Moore, who has been active on numerous non-profit boards, and Pratt & Whitney President Alain Bellemare. The fourth recipient was Daniel Lamarre, President and COO of Cirque du Soleil, whose company has not only been a cultural export for Quebec but has also been a vehicle for philanthropy by donating one percent of all sales to local charities.
While the event allowed the students to hear firsthand from leaders in the financial world, it was also a chance for alumni to reconnect and for students to meet role models and potential employers.
"It's a great way for alumni to get back in touch with their home base," said management student Jean Zhang, one of the event organizers. "And it's a great way for students to meet business leaders."
Though the event was host to many prominent people, including McGill Chancellor Dick Pound, the loudest applause was reserved for the eponymous benefactor of the eponymous management faculty, Marcel Desautels, who got a prolonged ovation from students and executives.