McGill at “the carrefour of diverse cultural perspectives, diverse disciplines, and different ways of knowing”

By Neale McDevitt

Suzanne Fortier had just left the Arts Building earlier as part of the academic procession heading to Redpath Hall where she would be installed as McGill’s 17th Principal and 13th Vice-Chancellor when a young man called out to her. “Congratulations!” he said.

“Merci!” she called back with a wave and a broad smile, unable to contain her obvious joy as people lining the road to Redpath Hall broke out in spontaneous applause. Once in the Hall, Fortier would receive two extended standing ovations before the end of the Installation Ceremony.

The two-hour Ceremony was vintage McGill, with enough pomp, circumstance and bagpipes to satisfy the traditionalists, while at the same time focussing on what McGill does best – preparing the leaders of tomorrow.

This celebration of past, present and future was a common thread throughout Fortier’s 15-minute Installation Address. She opened by paying tribute to the family and friends who have supported her in her endeavours throughout the years before acknowledging the colleagues and dignitaries in attendance.

“It is a privilege to follow Heather Munroe-Blum, McGill’s first woman Principal, and to build on her decade of leadership. I am honoured that she is here today,” said Fortier. “So too am I honoured to welcome past Chancellors, Board Chairs and Principals of McGill, and, of course, our Governor General, David Johnston, who is not only Principal Emeritus but also McGill’s Visitor.”

Fortier spoke about her humble beginnings as a child in Saint-Timothée, Quebec, where her family home only had three books “the Larousse Dictionary, the Bible and the Eaton’s catalogue,” she said, “The world I grew up in was far removed from the world of academia…”

But seeing their daughter devour those three books, her parents quickly set up an account for her at the local bookstore (“Quel bonheur!,” said Fortier), unknowingly setting her on her way down the road toward McGill.

Read the full story and watch the ceremony on the McGill Reporter.

November 21, 2013