The University of Ottawa mourns the loss of one of its past presidents: Father Roger Guindon

Posted on Saturday, November 17, 2012

Here is the statement issued today by Allan Rock, President of the University of Ottawa, following the death of one of the University's founders and key personalities, Father Roger Guindon, at the age of 92 years old.

Our Chancellor, the Right Honorable Michaelle Jean, joins me in expressing sadness and a sense of loss on the death of Father Roger Guindon at the age of 92. The Board of Governors and the entire university community mourn the loss of one of University of Ottawa's iconic figure.

Father Guindon was a remarkable man who will be remembered with deep respect and affection for his many qualities and achievements. Perhaps more than anything else, however, his name will forever be associated with the astonishing transformation he brought about at our University.

Roger Guindon was nothing less than the founding father of the modern University of Ottawa. Under his remarkable leadership, a small private institution owned by the Roman Catholic Church transformed itself in 1965 into what was to become one of Canada's leading public universities. Working with the talented team he assembled, he managed the complex transition with consummate skill and then became president (then called “rector”) of the new university. He remained in office until 1984, and during those 20 years of inspired and unceasing work, he laid the foundations for the world-class institution that “his university” has become.

Father Guindon's affable and unassuming nature concealed a powerful intellect and a keenly strategic mind. Bill Davis, who was Ontario's Minister of Education during the University's early post-transition days and later, of course, was our premier for many years, once recalled the experience of negotiating with Father Guindon. According to Mr. Davis, “it was a daunting task.” Whenever he saw a meeting with Father Guindon on his agenda, he began immediately to calculate just what it was going to cost him!

During his 20 years of selfless service as rector, Father Guindon presided over an era of rapid growth and expansion, managing profound institutional change with unpretentious wisdom and a light touch. In direct dealings with others, and especially with students, he was always warm and welcoming. He was, however, no pushover. In 1969, during my time as president of the University of Ottawa student association, I presented him in his office with our demands for student seats on the University's Board of Governors and Senate—a rather radical notion at the time! These steps were long overdue, I insisted, and must be taken immediately. He made it clear in no uncertain terms, though, that reform would come on his timetable, not ours. I discovered only later that Father Guindon had already begun paving the way for the changes. He simply needed the time to bring others around, and he succeeded. Within the year, student representatives were welcomed into the membership of both bodies.

Father Guindon was a modest man and a person of deep faith. He would, I know, recoil at the idea of an elaborate memorial or commemoration in his name. But in a very real sense, the University itself is the most enduring monument possible to his extraordinary work.

As an Oblate priest in the Catholic Church, Father Roger Guindon devoted his life to the service of others. He lived simply and accumulated no material possessions. But he leaves a rich legacy of achievement, of which we are all the grateful beneficiaries.

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