The new Richard J. Renaud Science Complex on the Loyola Campus at Concordia was officially inaugurated this past Monday. The complex bears the name of its philanthropic donor. The ceremony started off with a Mohawk ritual thanksgiving. Then Quebec Prime Minister Jean Charest praised the university and vowed the government intends to fulfill its educational mandate with other partners.The inauguration was sealed off with a symbolic tree planting.
A who’s who of municipal and provincial delegates sat in on the occasion under a white tent adjacent to the new “L” shaped, 350,000-square-foot complex equipped with 1,200 computer outlets, which will be home to five academic departments, one college and three research centres.
“It was in 1998, during a meeting to discuss the future of the university’s westend Loyola Campus that it all started. Martin Singer, Dean of Concordia University’s faculty of arts and science slipped a napkin to Jack Lightstone, the university’s provost, with four words scrolled on the paper: ‘Move science to Loyola.’
Well, five years and $85 million later, the dream has become a reality,” said master of ceremonies, Charles Tisseyre.
Elder Kevin Deer, principal of Mohawk Immersion School Karonhnianonha, was first up in the series of speakers- in order of appearance: Eric Molson, Concordia chancellor, Dr. Martin Singer, dean of the faculty of arts and science, Sebastien Fournier, a Concordia science student, Dr. Frederick Lowy, rector and vice-chancellor, Richard J. Renaud, guest of honour after which the science complex was named and finally Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who once taught a course on the role of the minister in the federal political system at Concordia.
Deer acknowledged it was important to give thanks to “this earth that we call our mother,” without which we wouldn’t be here.
After giving thanks in his native Mohawk language, he proceeded with a dance and song ritual with two of his students from the Mohawk Immersion School.
“The building that you see behind us was only a dream four short years ago,” said Molson.
“It took vision, planning and entrepreneurship to see this project through. The opening of our new science complex is the beginning of a new era in the teaching and research of science at Concordia university. With this facility, we are poised to become one of the lead centres of scientific research in Quebec and Canada.”
But to help achieve this leader stance, Sebastien Fournier, a fourth-year student in psychology, specialized in neuro-behavioural science, is only one of the many talented students, along with 100 newly hired, young professors, who will bring about part of the necessary elements to Concordia’s future success. Fournier explained how his studies in science at Concordia will help him in future medical work and how he is excited about this new building.
In his speech, Rector Lowy thanked Renaud for his generosity.
“The gift that he made to our last capital campaign on behalf of himself and his wife- Carolyn, and his ongoing support has made it possible for hundreds of students to attend university who otherwise would not have been able to do so.”
Lowy also mentioned that the Loyola Campus will be seeing more improvements, including “expanded athletic facilities, major renovations of the Drummond Building which will become the home of our communications studies and journalism programs and, in the future, a new performing arts complex.”
For his part, Renaud emphasized in his address since our government only spends about 22 per cent of their budget on education, it was up to the “economically advantaged members of our society [to] become the future funders of the increase in growth of costs and numbers of students” because, after all, they would be the ones benefiting from this investment in the end.
But, when Jean Charest took the stand, he admitted that “governments, yes, financially are always and have been in a very tight situation,” but that they have always kept education as a top priority and that is why they look at outside partners to help with the funding.
Renaud, who is a graduate of Loyola and has taught part-time at Concordia’s business school in the mid-1970s, envisions this new building will be the “number one non-medical science school in Canada and a world leader in geonomics and behaviour neurology areas (two of the research centres) where [Concordia currently has] some of the best and top scientists in Canada and the world.”
“I hope that there will be other opportunities and days like this to come. That’s what my government would like to do,” concluded Charest.